Pope John Paul II was buried at the Vatican on April 8, 2005
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VATICAN CITY Hundreds of thousands of the faithful were joined by world leaders and dignitaries at the Vatican on Friday for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Millions more packed the surrounding streets of Rome to watch the ceremonies on giant television screens.
Applause rang out in St. Peter's Square as John Paul's simple wooden coffin, adorned with a cross and the "M" for Mary, was brought out into the square from St. Peter's Basilica and placed on a carpet on the ground in front of the altar.
Prelates placed a copy of the Gospel on the coffin as a choir sang the Gregorian chant "Grant him Eternal rest O Lord" and the service got under way. Cardinals wearing white miters processed out onto the square, the wind whipping their red vestments and the pages of the Gospel.
After the Mass ended, the bells of St. Peter's tolled and 12 pallbearers carried the coffin on their shoulders back inside for burial again to sustained applause from the hundreds of thousands in the square.
Throngs of people jammed the main boulevard leading to St. Peter's Square early Friday, and groggy pilgrims awoke in their sleeping bags at dawn to gathering hordes of the faithful stepping over them, eager to secure a good spot to view the funeral Mass in the square. The boulevard, Via della Conciliazione, was a sea of red and white flags waved by pilgrims from John Paul's beloved Poland.
"We just wanted to say goodbye to our father for the last time," said Joanna Zmijewsla, 24, who traveled for 30 hours with her brother Szymon from a town near Kielce, Poland, and arrived at St. Peter's at 1 a.m. Friday.
The funeral was celebrated by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, a close confidant of John Paul and mentioned as a possible successor.
At the beginning of the Mass, Ratzinger wearing red vestments and skullcap, prayed: "Oh God, father and pastor of humanity, look at your family gathered here in prayer and grant your servant and our pope John Paul II, who in the love of Christ led your church, to share with the flock entrusted to him the reward promised to the faithful ministers of the Gospel."
Ratzinger also referred to him as our "late beloved pope" in a homily that traced his life from his days as a factory worker in Nazi-occupied Poland to the last days of his life as the head of the world's 1 billion Catholics.
Interrupted by applause at least 10 times, the usually unflappable German-born Ratzinger choked with emotion as he recalled one of John Paul's last public appearances when he blessed the faithful from his studio window on Easter Sunday.
"We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the father's house, that he sees us and blesses us," he said to applause, even among the prelates, as he pointed up to the third-floor window above the square.
"Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude," said Ratzinger in heavily accented Italian.
He said John Paul was a "priest to the last" and said he had offered his life for God and his flock "especially amid the sufferings of his final months."
Ratzinger was interrupted again toward the end of the Mass by several minutes of cheers, rhythmic applause and shouts of "Giovanni Paolo Santo" or "Saint John Paul," from the crowd.
After the Mass, attended by royalty and dignitaries from more than 80 countries, the prelates left the altar in procession, bearing the coffin from St. Peter's Basilica down to the Vatican grottos, drawing to a close an eventful 26-year reign. There, the pontiff's body will lie with the remains of popes from throughout the ages, near the traditional tomb of the apostle Peter, the first pope.
The pope's death on Saturday evoked a remarkable outpouring of affection around the world and brought an estimated 4 million people to Rome to see the funeral from up close, in one of the largest religious gatherings in the West in modern times.
The Mass began at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. EDT), and was preceded by an intimate ceremony attended only by high-ranking prelates, who placed a pouch of silver and bronze medals and a scrolled account of his life in his coffin.
John Paul's longtime private secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, and the master of the liturgical ceremonies, Archbishop Piero Marini, placed a white silk veil over the pope's face before the coffin was closed.
Playing host to one of the largest Western religious gatherings of modern times, the Vatican closed the doors to St. Peter's Basilica and authorities ramped up security ahead of Friday's funeral for Pope John Paul II.
Rome itself was at a standstill. Just after midnight Friday morning, a ban took effect on vehicle traffic in the city center.
Air space was closed and anti-aircraft batteries outside town were on alert. Naval ships patrolled both the Mediterranean coast and the Tiber River near the Vatican, while NATO surveillance aircraft flew high overhead.
Political power brokers, royalty and throngs of faithful were in attendance at the funeral. The U.S. delegation including President Bush and wife Laura, former President Bill Clinton and former President George H.W. Bush was joined Friday by Prince Charles, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and representatives of more than 80 countries.
Jewish and Muslim religious leaders attended the funeral, along with Israel's foreign minister and the head of the Arab League.
On Thursday, hordes of pilgrims the hardiest of some 4 million who flooded Rome were rewarded for holding out after police closed off the line Wednesday night waiting to view John Paul's body in St. Peter's Basilica. In the morning, the barriers were lifted for more mourners as the numbers who said a personal farewell approached 2 million since the body went on public view Monday. The basilica's towering bronze doors were closed late Thursday.
Pilgrims staked out positions with sleeping bags and blankets just outside St. Peter's Square, getting as close they could to the scene of the funeral even though they will see little more than the same images on giant television screens as could be seen elsewhere in the city.
Rome groaned under the weight of visitors. Side streets were clogged in a permanent pedestrian rush hour, mostly by kids with backpacks. Tent camps sprang up to take the spillover from hotels. Hawkers jacked up prices of everything from bottled water to papal trinkets.
"You really have to love the pope to be willing to do this," said Nathanael Valdenaire, a young Frenchman who slept on the pavement in a sleeping bag alongside his sisters.
Pope's Testament Released
John Paul suggested in his last testament that he considered the possibility of resigning in 2000, when the Roman Catholic Church began its new millennium and he turned 80, according to his testament released Thursday.
The document also said he had left no material property and asked that all his personal notes be burned. It mentioned only two living people: his personal secretary and the chief rabbi of Rome who welcomed him to Rome's synagogue in 1986.
The Polish-born pope, who died Saturday at the age of 84, also had considered the possibility of a funeral in Poland, but later left it up to the College of Cardinals to decide. The pope will be buried under St. Peter's Basilica on Friday after a funeral in the square.
Writing in 2000, the pope, who suffered from Parkinson's disease and crippling hip and knee ailments, suggested the time was one of apparent torment for him, mentioning the 1981 attempt on his life. He called his survival a "miracle."
He said he hoped the Lord "would help me to recognize how long I must continue this service to which he called me the day of 16 October, 1978."
He also prayed at the time that he would have the "necessary strength" to continue his mission as long as he was serving as pope.
As they planned the transition from John Paul's eventful 26-year reign, the College of Cardinals set April 18 as the start of its conclave to elect a successor, a papal election with new rules and new technologies.
With 3,500 accredited journalists watching, the 116 cardinals expected to chose the next pope will be mindful of the warning in a document by John Paul to abide by their vow of secrecy or face "grave penalties according to the judgment of the future pope."
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the cardinals would celebrate a morning Mass on April 18, then be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel in the early afternoon for their first secret ballot.
Italian news services reported Thursday that 140 of the 184 cardinals were in Rome Thursday afternoon, local time. Father Raniero Cantalamessa of Italy and Cardinal Tomas Spidlik of the Czech Republic have been chosen as the ones to lead the cardinals' meditations on electing a pope. Spidlik will lead the Mass before the conclave.
In past conclaves, the so-called "princes of the church" were locked in the Apostolic Palace, crammed into tiny makeshift cubicles without running water and limited toilet facilities.
John Paul, in a 1996 change, said the cardinals would be housed in a hotel within the Vatican walls that he had built. Each cardinal now has a private room and bath.
Also unlike previous conclaves, the electors would be free to roam the Vatican, though they are forbidden from communicating with anyone outside. The Sistine Chapel and other areas will be swept for any electronic listening devices.
According to church law, prelates are expected to hold at least one ballot on the first day of a conclave. If no one gets the required two-thirds majority after about 12 days, cardinals may change procedure and elect the pope by simple majority.
Indonesian Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, the archbishop of Jakarta, said Thursday he hoped the College of Cardinals would keep John Paul's legacy in mind when they enter the conclave.
"We hope that the man they appointed will be more or less like him," he told reporters as he entered the Vatican for Thursday's pre-conclave meetings.
John Paul's spiritual document did not name the mystery cardinal he created in 2003, Navarro-Valls said. John Paul created the "in pectore" or "in the heart" cardinal in his last consistory. The formula is used when the pope wants to name a cardinal from a country where the church is oppressed.
The number of cardinal electors under age 80 and thus eligible to vote is 117. On Wednesday, the Philippines Embassy to the Holy See said Cardinal Jaime Sin, 76, was too ill to attend. However, on Thursday, Sin's office in Manila said the cardinal was hoping to attend despite his poor health.