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With high praise and tight security, pope laid to rest

08 April, 2005

Presidents, prime ministers and kings from around the world joined hundreds of thousands of pilgrims paying their respects to Pope John Paul II in St
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Pope John Paul II has been buried in St Peter's Basilica after a funeral in Rome watched by tens of thousands of people, including 200 world leaders.

The vast crowd of pilgrims packed St Peter's Square and spilled onto the surrounding streets.

Millions of others watched the Mass on television, many gathering around giant screens in cities around the world.

After the requiem, the coffin was taken back into the basilica and placed in its final resting place in the crypt.

Only senior clerics and close friends of the Pope accompanied the coffin to the 16th-Century crypt for the private interment.

The simple cypress wood coffin was placed inside two other caskets - one zinc and one oak - before being buried near the resting place of St Peter.

The grave is marked by a simple marble slab inscribed with his name in Latin, Joannes Paulus II, and the years of his life, 1920-2005.

The three-hour funeral service was conducted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, which will begin electing the Pope's successor on 18 April.

Throughout the open-air service the Pope's wooden coffin, adorned with a cross and the letter 'M' for Mary, lay in front of an altar on the basilica's stone steps.

In his homily, or sermon, Cardinal Ratzinger traced the life of the man he called "our late beloved Pope" from his days as a labourer in Nazi-occupied Poland to supreme leader of more than one billion Roman Catholics worldwide.

He was interrupted many times by lengthy applause from the crowd - a traditional Italian mark of respect.

Cardinal Ratzinger said John Paul II was a "priest to the last" who had offered his life to God and his congregation, "especially amid the sufferings of his final months".

The cardinal's voice choked with emotion as he recalled one of John Paul II's last public appearances, when he appeared at the window of his Vatican apartment to bless the crowd gathered below in St Peter's Square 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," Cardinal Ratzinger said as he pointed up to the third-floor window above the square.

There was great emotion from the many thousands of pilgrims too, many of whom wept openly as they prayed.

Even young children seemed aware of loss.

Eight-year-old Robert Petre told the BBC News website: "I'll miss him.

"I saw him a year ago when I came to the Vatican. Now he has gone to heaven, to be with Jesus."

Police guarding the throng blinked back tears as the prayers were said.

Huge crowds also gathered in the Polish city of Krakow, the city where John Paul II was cardinal before ascending to the papacy.

About one million people converged on one of the city's parks to watch the requiem Mass on a video screen.

As the coffin was carried away from public view for the last time at the end of the service the bells of St Peter's tolled and the gathered pilgrims applauded.

Just before re-entering the basilica, the coffin was held aloft and momentarily turned towards the piazza where the crowds bade farewell.

End.

Reader Comments:

Pope John Paul the Great

The story was marvellous, I was one of the people who watched the trasmission from the beginning till the end. No words can describe the greatness of this Pope. He loved the whole humanity and that love returned to him as we have seen the witness during his funeral. He was an excellent example of life, how to live, how to love with sincere heart. He showed us his fathernal and universal love without excluding anyone. I had lots of audiences with him in my life time. Two private audiences and many others. Thank God for those opportunities to be able to encounter the Pope closely. The experiences which will last forever. I felt such personally love as my real father. He was a Father, brother and friends of all. He was people's Pope. Now he is with God we can ask him many graces, he is our mediator who can ask graces from God. I pray him everyday. He was in my heart and he will always be in my heart and in my soul.

Tew P., Tajikistan - 10 April, 2005

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