Thursday, April 07, 2005

Funereal Disease: Taking Centre Stage at Popalooza

Vatican Closes Queue to View Pope; Bush Arrives for Funeral
April 7, 2005

The Vatican closed the queue of people waiting to view the body of Pope John Paul II, as security forces in Rome prepare to cope with an estimated 4 million people who may visit the city for his funeral tomorrow.

More than 1 million people have filed past the pope's body in St. Peter's Basilica in the past two days. The queue in St. Peter's Square was closed at 10 p.m. Rome time yesterday, the Vatican said. St. Peter's doors will close at 10 p.m. today.

U.S. President George W. Bush led a delegation including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and First Lady Laura Bush that visited the basilica yesterday. Bush and the former presidents knelt in front of the pope's body for about six minutes.

More than 200 heads of state will be in Rome for tomorrow's funeral of Polish-born Karol Jozef Wojtyla, who died on April 2 at the age of 84. Some Italian newspapers are estimating that between 1 million and 2 million people will come from Poland to try to join the crowd in St. Peter's Square.

The pontiff's support for Poland's Solidarity labor movement is credited with helping bring about the fall of communism in the country and in other Eastern European nations in the mid-1980s.

The pope's funeral begins at 10 a.m. tomorrow. The Rome authorities are setting up 11 giant video screens across the city for people to be able to watch the ceremony without having to go near the Vatican area.

Between 15,000 and 18,000 mourners on average have been filing past the pope's body each hour during his lying in state, the Vatican has said.

The Catholic Church's cardinals have set April 18 as the date of the start of the conclave, the secret election process to choose the next pope. A successful candidate needs the support of two-thirds of the voting cardinals.

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