Pope's Funeral Set for Friday


New York Times

April 4, 2005

VATICAN CITY, April 4 - In a slow, solemn ceremony the body of Pope John Paul II was moved from the Apostolic Palace to St. Peter's Basilica today, where it will lie in state for public viewing before his funeral is held on Friday at 10 a.m.

Tens of thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square as 10 pallbearers flanked by Swiss Guards carried the pope's body on a crimson platform starting at about 5 p.m. (11 a.m., Eastern time).

The procession wound its way into the square, and before entering the basilica the pallbearers held up the body so that the faithful could see John Paul clearly.

Monks carrying lighted candles preceded the procession. They chanted "Lord have mercy" in Latin, and sang a ritual litany asking all the saints of the Church to pray for the late pope.

John Paul will lie in state for public viewing until 2 a.m., when the basilica will be closed for three hours.

The basilica will then be reopened and the public will able to file in throughout the day and night, the Vatican's chief spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said at a news briefing this morning.

John Paul, who died after a urinary tract infection set off a fatal spiral of ailments, will be interred in the grotto of the basilica, the popes' traditional place of burial.

Dr. Navarro-Valls said John Paul would "almost surely" be buried in the tomb where Pope John XXIII lay before he was brought up onto the main floor of the basilica.

John XXIII, who died in 1963, was moved after his beatification in 2000 because so many pilgrims wanted to visit his tomb.

There had been speculation that John Paul might have left orders to be buried in his native Poland, but Dr. Navarro-Valls said the pope "did not show any such wish."

The White House confirmed today that President Bush and the First Lady will attend the funeral, and could leave for Rome as early as Wednesday. The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said other members of the delegation could be announced later today.

This morning the College of Cardinals met for the first time since the pope's death and decided on Friday for the funeral. There were 65 cardinals present, and they met at the Bologna Hall of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace for about two and a half hours. His pale, folded hands intertwined with a rosary, Pope John Paul II was laid out inside the papal palace on Sunday as the power in the Roman Catholic Church began its shift to his eventual successor.

Just 12 hours after he died Saturday night, the majestic pageantry around the death of a pope began, with a huge public Mass in St. Peter's Square and then the first rites of John Paul's funeral.

The body of the 84-year-old pope was laid out in Clementine Hall, dressed in white and red vestments, his head covered with a white bishop's miter and propped up on three dark gold pillows. Tucked under his left arm was the silver staff, called the crosier, that he carried in public.

"He suffered a lot, and he suffered for many years," Francesco Rutelli, the former mayor of Rome and an opposition leader in Italy, said after seeing the body of the pope, whom he had met with often over the years.

In death, after 26 years as pope, "his expression was serene," Mr. Rutelli said.

Even amid the start of the ceremonies honoring this pope, steps toward a new leadership were being taken: nearly all the top officials of Vatican departments have been obliged to step down, leaving the church in a brief state of suspended animation.

The new pope, whose election begins in the Sistine Chapel 15 to 20 days from now, will decide which cardinals will lead his administration and thus set the new path for the next era in the Catholic Church.

The viewing ceremony on Sunday - broadcast live over Italian television - was for cardinals, bishops and other members of the church hierarchy as well as prominent officials in Italy, where the church is a central and ancient pillar. The guests included Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the pope's personal secretary for decades and by proximity one of the most powerful men in the church, sat in a rear pew receiving condolences and wiping away tears.

On Sunday, several hundred chairs were set up in two sections - broken up by an open surface of stone where his body will lie for three or four days starting Monday - in front of the basilica.

Huge crowds continued to flock to St. Peter's Square on Sunday, after two nights of vigils for the pope.

The mood began to shift from what had been an anxious death watch: On a beautiful sunny day, there were banners and music and a self-conscious awareness of being close to history, with Romans and tourists alike posing in front of St. Peter's holding copies of newspapers with big headlines announcing John Paul's death.

At a morning memorial Mass, Archbishop Leonard Elisabetta Sandri, who served as the pope's public voice in the last stages of his illness, announced to tens of thousands of worshippers that he would be reading a message prepared by the pope himself for this Sunday, a week after Easter.

"It is love which converts hearts and gives peace," he said. "Lord, who with your death and Resurrection revealed the love of the Father, we believe in you and with faith we repeat to you today: 'Jesus I trust in you, have pity on us and on the entire world.' "

There remained a strong sense of a mourning and loss for a pope who had served for so long and inspired many Catholics - whether or not they agreed with his conservative stances on social issues - with the idea that his papacy was different from others.

"In a world that needs guidance, he's always been very clear," said Rita Dekonski, 45, a banker from England. "He's reaffirmed a lot of Catholic values that were being lost."

Still, she said, she would like the next pope to be "a little more liberal."

Ivana Sparaco, 30, an English teacher from Rome, said she hoped the next pope would be on the model of John Paul II, especially in his down-to-earth manner.

"He struck me as very human, very informal, demonstrating no shame about his suffering," she said. "My impression of the church used to be that it was a somber place of penance, but the pope made it into something of a joy for me."

Meantime, the Vatican chamberlain, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, a 78-year-old Spaniard, took over administrative control of a church with a billion members worldwide. By tradition, the chamberlain is charged with determining officially that the pope is dead.

On Sunday, at the first viewing of the pope's body in the papal palace, Cardinal Martínez Somalo took a public role, sprinkling John Paul with holy water and offering a blessing.

"We beg the Lord to welcome him into his kingdom and to grant him the prize for the trials he has endured for the Gospel," Cardinal Martínez Somalo said in Latin before the pope's body.

Head turned slightly to the side, the body of John Paul was laid out on a platform in the huge hall, used to greet dignitaries, with two Swiss guards on either side.

The guards themselves knelt to pay their respects, as did nuns, priests, diplomats and some of the most important people in Italy.

Meantime on Sunday, the Vatican released more details of the illness of John Paul, who died in his apartment after deciding Thursday not to return to the hospital despite the knowledge, according to his spokesman, that his condition was increasingly grave.

He had been admitted twice to the Gemelli hospital clinic since Feb. 1, the start of a two-month decline.

The death certificate said he died from "septic shock" - a precipitous drop in blood pressure because of infection - and "irreversible cardiocirculatory collapse."

The certificate listed as contributing causes Parkinson's disease, which he had suffered from for more than a decade; episodes of respiratory insufficiency and constriction of the trachea; signs of heart damage; and an enlarged prostate gland, which made him vulnerable to the kind of urinary infection that killed him.

The certificate said the death was certified after the pope's heart was tested for 20 minutes with an electrocardiogram.

On Monday, the Vatican may announce the day of the funeral. By church rules, he must be buried four to six days of his death - that is, between Wednesday and Friday.

An announcement is also possible on whether he will be interred with other popes in St. Peter's Basilica or whether his will specified that he be buried in his home country of Poland.

In Turkey, Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot and seriously injured the pope in 1981, was also mourning the pope's death, his brother told The Associated Press. The pope publicly forgave Mr. Agca, visited him in prison and received several of his relatives, including his mother.

"I feel that he is in deep sorrow over the death of the pope, who was like a brother to him," Mr. Agca's brother, Adnan, was quoted as saying. "We're all very sad. He was a great man who contributed a lot to world peace."

Terence Neilan contributed reporting from New York for this article, and Daniel J. Wakin, Elisabeth Rosenthal of The International Herald Tribune and Elisabetta Povoledo from Rome.