Almost a Million Pay Respects | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 05.04.2005
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Almost a Million Pay Respects

By the end of Tuesday, the Vatican estimated that 1 million will have filed past the body of Pope John Paul II at his lying-in-state in St. Peter's Basilica.


The pope's admirers have been waiting up to eight hours to see him

The Vatican's said its figures followed projections by city and police authorities on the basis of the numbers who had so far passed through the basilica. Mourners in the long lines packing streets around the Vatican reported queues of between three and seven hours. The body of the pope has been laid out for public viewing since around 8 p.m. on Monday.

At dawn, the huge crowd which had queued up throughout the night, stretched from the imposing basilica down the broad avenue from the Vatican to the Tiber River and crammed side-streets.

Such was the crush of mourners that the basilica was closed for little more than an hour to allow cleaning to take place, instead of the three hours which had been scheduled.

Thousands more, like Alessandro, 35, from Rome, arrived early Tuesday in the hope of catching a last glimpse of John Paul II before heading to work.

"I came this morning early before heading to work," he said. "They're saying there's a two or three hour wait to see the pope's body."

Papst Leiche wird in den Petersdom überführt

Image from television shows Swiss Guards around Pope John Paul II's body just prior to it begining its journey from the Apostolic Palace to St. Peter's Basilica for public viewing Monday

Ordinary people began paying their respects late Monday after a day of high ceremony during which the pope's body was transferred from the Apostolic Palace to the altar in the center of the massive basilica.

Funeral on Friday

Behind Vatican walls, meanwhile, cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church kicked off a daily series of general congregations, on Monday deciding that John Paul II's funeral mass will begin at 10 a.m. Friday when the pontiff will be laid to rest in the crypt of St Peter's.

Many Poles had hoped that the pope would have left instructions to be buried in his native land.

German to lead funeral mass

Announcing details of the funeral arrangements, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Friday's requiem mass would be celebrated by German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's doctrinal enforcer and a possible successor to John Paul II.

The pope's death has drawn eulogies around the world for his commitment to peace, humanity and dialogue, and his contribution to the fall of communism in Poland and by extension the whole of eastern Europe.

Some critical voices

But a discordant note was sounded when AIDS campaigners notably slammed the pope's ban on condom use, abhorrence of homosexuality and conservatism on women's rights as bleak failures in the fight against HIV.

Inside the Church, the reform movement We Are Church listed a slew of "human rights" demands for the next pontiff: women's ordination, the right of priests to marry, freedom of conscience and the right to be respected for one's sexual orientation.

In France, leading French left-wingers sparked a row after criticizing Chirac's government for lowering flags on official buildings in tribute to the pope, which they said breached secular principles.

World leaders to attend

Friday's funeral is set to draw up to two million mourners, officials say, as well as some 200 foreign leaders including US President George W. Bush, and hundreds of millions more will follow the ceremony on television across the world.

The crowds will be the largest seen here since the peace demonstrations two years ago against the US-led war on Iraq.

Bundeskanzler Schröder würdigt den gestorbenen Papst, Johannes Paul II.

Pope John Paul II (right) and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder during a 1999 meeting

Other leaders confirmed as attending include UN chief Kofi Annan, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and German President Horst Köhler, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and the presidents of Brazil, Poland and Syria.

Security will be extremely tight. Italian authorities are deploying up to 10,000 military and police personnel, with warplanes, helicopters and a NATO surveillance plane enforcing a no-fly zone over the capital.

Blair delays election announcement

Another funeral mourner will be Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, who was to have married his long-time love Camilla Parker Bowles on the same day.

They postponed their wedding until Saturday "as a mark of respect," aides said.

The pope's death has already obliged Blair to delay an announcement of the British general election, which he had been due to make Monday, by a day. The vote is widely expected for May 5.

A black successor?

The cardinals from the Vatican hierarchy and more than 100 dioceses around the world have yet to announce a date for their conclave to elect the next leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

Kardinal Francis Arinze Galeriebild

Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze

An Irish bookmaker has put cardinals Francis Arinze of Nigeria and Dionigi Tettamanzi of Italy at the top of its list of likely successors, followed by Honduran Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Germany's Ratzinger and Claudio Hummes of Brazil.

Australian Cardinal George Pell reassured fellow traditionalists that the Vatican conclave would choose another figure who would hold to the late pope's staunch conservative line on theological issues.

"I'm quite sure the general line -- fidelity to basic Catholic teachings -- is absolutely unassailable," he told ABC radio.

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