Thousands gather to pay homage


VATICAN CITY -- Draped in crimson vestments, Pope JOhn Paul II lay in state yesterday, his head covered with a white bishop's miter, as church and Italian political leaders bowed before him in prayer.

After a morning Mass attended by more than 100,000 worshipers in St. Peter's Square, he lay in the Apostolic Palace's Clementine Hall, a large 17th-century room covered by frescoes and near the papal apartment, where he died Saturday.

His death certificate, released yesterday, listed septic shock and heart failure as the causes of death and acknowledged the pontiff's long battle with Parkinson's disease.

As Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Polish nuns, the Vatican diplomatic corps and dozens of ranking clergy from the Vatican paid their respects, two Swiss Guards stood at attention in their red-blue-and-yellow-striped uniforms, posted on either side of the pope.

He lay in front of a fireplace adorned with the Vatican coat of arms, a crucifix to one side and an ornate candle burning on the other.

His head rested on several golden pillows, a rosary was placed in his folded hands and his pastoral staff was tucked under his left arm. His feet were clad in soft brown leather shoes.

Beginning today, his body will lie in state in front of St. Peter's Basilica. Also today, the College of Cardinals convenes to discuss arrangements for his funeral, which by church rules must take place before week's end. The cardinals will also make arrangements for the conclave to elect a new pope.

The viewing ceremony in the papal palace, broadcast by Italian television, followed a midmorning public Mass for the pope in St. Peter's Square that attracted an estimated 130,000 people.

The service began under gray skies with a procession of the College of Cardinals and baritone voices of a gathered choir singing "Allelujah." By the final hymn, the large gold crosses worn by the cardinals glinted like diamonds, and the faithful who were gathered before them were bathed in sunshine as they prayed for the repose of the pontiff's soul.

The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, was interrupted by ripples of applause every time he mentioned the name of the pope.

Even as he spoke from the steps of the basilica -- choirs, altar boys and the crimson-capped cardinals standing nearby -- thousands more people streamed down the boulevards leading to the square, and many listened to the service from the streets.

"We entrust with confidence to the risen Christ, lord of life and history, our beloved John Paul II, who for 27 years guided the universal church as the successor of Peter," the cardinal said.

During his homily, Sodano added: "Our soul is shocked by a painful event: Our father and pastor, John Paul II, has left us. However ... he has always invited us to look to Christ, the only reason for our hope."

The mood was unmistakably somber, but there was also an air of celebration for the end of the pope's suffering and the journey of his soul.

The celebratory nature was also reflected in the crowd, many holding pictures of the pontiff to the sky, others with flags from around the world held aloft on poles.

Many carried commemorative newspapers. The front page of La Repubblica said simply, "Addio Wojtyla," using the family name of Karol Wojtyla, who moved in 1978 from an obscure Polish prelate to pope of more than 1 billion Roman Catholics worldwide.

Giant screens set up on each side of the basilica showed the service. Each time the camera focused on someone in the crowd holding a picture of the pontiff, the ripples of applause began anew.

Red roses, yellow roses and tulips of many colors were placed in the grand fountains in the piazza. In at least a dozen areas of the square, pictures of the pope were placed on the ground surrounded by candles.

Many notes were left. One of them, written in crayon with a child's scrawl, said, "Thank you, Papa." Another said, "Rest, Papa, rest."

At the end of the ceremony, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who the previous night had announced the pope's death to the throngs gathered on the piazza for prayers, read the traditional noontime prayer.

The pope, who had been a prolific poet and author, wrote the words, the archbishop said, and the crowd again applauded. Sandri told those gathered that he was reading the words "with such honor but also such nostalgia."

"It is love which converts hearts and gives peace," came the message from Pope John Paul. "To all humanity, which today seems so lost and dominated by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, our resurrected lord gives us his love, which forgives, reconciles and reopens the soul to hope."

Throughout the day, thousands of people lined up to enter the basilica to pray for the pope. On the cobblestones of the piazza, people -- as they had in the days before -- broke into groups to sing hymns and pray.

"I love that so many people are singing for the pope," said Andrea della Venturo, 17, who stood below the pontiff's bedroom window, shuttered now in keeping with custom. "I know he is dead, but he can hear us, I know."

"We cried our tears yesterday," said his mother, Emanuella. "We come here now to pray."

The televised images of the pope lying in state in Clementine Hall followed the Mass.

A message and prayers were read in Latin by the Vatican camerlengo, or chamberlain, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo of Spain.

The Vatican said Somalo carried out the ancient ritual of confirmation of the pope's death yesterday, about an hour before the service at the basilica. He called the pope by his baptismal name three times -- "Karol, Karol, Karol" -- and with silence as an answer, the death was spiritually confirmed.

"With the reverent pilgrimage in front of his remains, we thank God for the good that through him was given to his church, and we implore his mercy for the faults that our pastor has committed due to human weakness," Somalo said in his remarks. "We beg the lord to welcome him into his kingdom and to grant him the prize for the trials that he endured for the Gospel."

Before the service ended, the ceremonial Vatican Swiss Guards lined up to pay their respects, removing their plumed helmets, kneeling and praying before the pope's body.

"Our Holy Father looks very much at peace. It was very satisfying for all of us to see him so serene," Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles was quoted as saying after viewing the pope. "He was such a brilliant light for the world."

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