Pope John Paul body lies in state
03 April, 2005
VATICAN, April 04 (Online): Pope John Paul IIís body, its pale hands clutching rosary beads, was put on display before the world on Sunday after more than 100,000 people packed St Peterís cobblestone square for a huge open-air mass in memory of their "father and shepherd".
Television images showed the pope, his face serene, dressed in red and white vestments and a white mitre. The pontiff was laid out on a raised velvet-draped dais flanked by two halberd-bearing Swiss Guards in the ornate Clementine Hall, taking up two floors of the Apostolic Palace. A crucifix, crooked in his left elbow, lay alongside his body.
Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, the Cardinal Camerlengo or temporary leader of the 1.1 billion-strong Catholic Church until the election of a new pope, stepped forward to sprinkle holy water over John Paul IIís body and recited a funerary prayer.
A choir filled the hall with the mournful tones of a Gregorian chant as dozens of officials and cardinals of the Roman Curia lined up to file past the popeís body in the hushed room, along with Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and cabinet ministers.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dead popeís secretary of state, presided over the Sundayís solemn mass, concelebrated with dozens of cardinals, during which he dubbed him "John Paul the Great".
Sodano, present at the popeís bedside as he passed away, said the pontiff, who battled crippling illness for months, had died a serene death. "I was a witness to this serenity as I stood praying by the agonising popeís bedside," the 77-year-old cardinal said, straying from his prepared text.
In an upbeat homily, he said John Paul II had gone to "enter the bliss". He said the pope had become "the bard of the civilisation of love, seeing in this term one of the most beautiful definitions of the ĎChristian civilisationí.
"Yes, the Christian civilisation is the civilisation of love, in radical contrast to those civilisations of hatred which were proposed by Nazism and communism," which the pope, then Karol Wojtyla, had experienced.
Grieving pilgrims wept openly when they heard their beloved popeís last message to them, which was read out by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri: "Love converts hearts and gives peace." "To humanity, which sometimes seems to be lost and dominated by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the risen Lord gives the gift of his love which forgives, reconciles and reopens the soul to hope," it added.
Sandri, who had become the popeís spokesman at public liturgies as the frail pontiffís voice failed, said that he was reading the message with "nostalgia". The huge crowd burst into tumultuous applause as the popeís portrait was shown on giant screens erected around the square overlooked by the popeís apartment, from where he made the last of his twice-weekly blessings to pilgrims on last Wednesday.
Thundering applause had also greeted the mention of the Polish-born popeís name at the start of the mass. Amid the grieving, there was speculation as to who will succeed John Paul II. A highly ritualised election process will begin April 17 at the earliest in the form of a conclave of cardinals, who will lock themselves in the Sistine Chapel until a new pontiff is chosen.
Cardinals are expected to announce a date and venue for the popeís funeral after they meet Monday at 10:30 am (0830 GMT). An AFP reporter on Sunday heard workmen drilling in the crypt below the basilica, the traditional resting place of popes, indicating that the 263rd pope would join most of his recent predecessors. The Vatican said the crypt would remain closed for three days.
Pope John Paul II will be laid to rest on Friday while first congregation of cardinals to perform his last rituals will be held today (Monday).
It may be mentioned that Italy government announced three days mourning after Pope's death.
Expressing their separate condolences with Christian community, PML President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said that they had received great shock over the said demise of Pope John Paul 11 who passed away on Saturday after protracted illness.
"We equally share the grief of Christian community at this juncture as Pope John Paul II was the spiritual leader of the Christian community," they said in their separate statements issued here on Sunday.
While expressing his heartfelt grief over the sad demise of the Pope, Shujaat noted that vacuum created by Pope's death would never be filled.
The Pope had played pivotal role in bridging the gap between various civilizations of the world and his (Pope) services would be remembered for generations, he remarked.
Nawaz Sharif asserted not only the Christian community but the peace loving people of the world had received with great shock the death news of the pope.