After a solemn procession across St. Peter's Square, the embalmed body of John Paul II goes on public view Monday, giving hundreds of thousands of people the chance to pay a final farewell to their beloved pontiff.
John Paul II's body goes on view Monday in St. Peter's Basilica
Officials prepared to transfer the body from the nearby Apostolic Palace, where the pope died in his apartment on Saturday, carried by pallbearers through the square and up to St Peter's Basilica.
It was to be laid before the altar, guarded by Swiss guards, at least until Wednesday. The procession is expected to begin at 4 p.m. CET and the public will be allowed into the basilica an hour later and for three days and nights.
St. Peter's or Poland ?
There was still no official confirmation on where the pope will be buried, whether in St. Peter's, as tradition dictates, or in his native Poland.
But Italy's Corriere della Sera said the pope had chosen to be buried in the crypt underneath the basilica and news agencies reported that cardinals had set Friday as the date for the funeral.
The daily also quoted Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, the archbishop of Krakow, denying rumors that the pope's heart was to be buried in the city where he was bishop before becoming pontiff.
Polish pilgrims holding vigil in St. Peter's Square said they nonetheless hoped that he would be buried in a Polish flag.
Thursday likely funeral date
Cardinals were to meet at 10:30 a.m. Monday to agree details of the funeral, including what day it should take place.
In line with tradition, that has to happen four to six days after a pope's death, in this case between Wednesday and Friday. It is expected to draw up to two million people and some 200 state and religious leaders.
Thousands of people crowd St. Peter's Square at the Vatican as they attend a Mass for the repose of Pope John Paul II's soul celebrated by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano on Sunday
John Paul II is likely to take the tomb of Pope John XXIII -- who was moved up from the crypt to the basilica itself after his beatification in 2000 -- a highly-privileged spot since it is one of the two closest to the tomb of Peter, Christ's apostle and the Church's first pope.
Lying in state
The body was laid out in the palace Sunday for cardinals, officials -- and television cameras -- after a huge mass in the square celebrating the 26-year pontificate of the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.
He was pictured dressed in red and white robes and a white mitre, a serene expression on his face, while his pale hands clutched rosary beads. A crucifix, crooked in his left elbow, lay alongside his body.
"God, our Father, has called our Pope John Paul II to Himself," Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, the Cardinal Camerlengo, temporary governor of the Church until the election of a new pope, said as he sprinkled holy water over the body. "We beg the Lord to welcome him into his kingdom."
Bush to attend funeral?
US President George W. Bush holds Pope John Paul II's hand during their meeting at the Clementine Hall at the Vatican, Friday, June 4, 2004
US media said President George W. Bush, a devout Methodist who clashed with the pope over the Iraq war, was expected to attend the funeral, but there was no immediate confirmation from the White House. No US president has ever attended a pope's funeral.
Italian authorities said they would deploy more than 6,400 police to ensure public security and protection of the dignitaries.
Italian ANSA news agency said warplanes, helicopters and a NATO AWACS plane would enforce a no-fly zone over the capital.
Italy and the Vatican have been observing an official mourning period since Sunday, with flags at half mast and official events cancelled.
Tributes have poured in for the late pope from every faith and continent.
Egyptian Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi -- seen as the highest authority in Sunni Islam -- said the pope's death was a "great loss for the Catholic Church and the Muslim world."
The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, the Dalai Lama, said he had a "deep appreciation for the pope's mission to bring peace to the world," while Philippine President Gloria Arroyo called him "a great spiritual bridge among all nations."
A message came from the family of Mehmet Ali Agca, saying that the pope's would-be 1981 assassin was "extremely sad" and in mourning.
The pope's passing also drew a response from critics of his conservative views. In France, a left-wing Catholic group said he "was completely out of touch with changes in values and in philosophical and scientific conceptions of life."
Chinese authorities, meanwhile, arrested an elderly bishop from China's underground Catholic church, apparently for failing to toe the official line on religious issues, a US-based rights group said Monday.
In a frosty message, its foreign ministry said: "We hope that the Vatican under the new pope will create conditions conducive to the improvement of relations with China."