VATICAN CITY, APRIL 4, 2005 (Zenit.org).- When John Paul II’s body was transferred to St. Peter’s Basilica, more than 100,000 people were lining up to offer their last goodbye.
Some came to the Vatican this morning, to ensure they had a place. The queue extended the length of the Via della Conciliazione, the broad street between St. Peter’s Square and the Tiber river, and it was estimated that the viewing would continue until 2 a.m., when Catholicism’s largest church would close to allow for its technical maintenance.
The Pope’s body was transferred this afternoon in a solemn procession from the Apostolic Palace through St. Peter’s Square, where it was received with the applause of thousands of faithful inside and outside the enclosure.
It was carried on the shoulders of 12 ushers in a bier covered with red velvet, to the basilica’s Altar of Confession, where it will remain until Friday.
A lengthy procession accompanied the Pope’s body, which took almost 20 minutes to enter the basilica. It included more than 2,000 priests, hundreds of bishops and some 70 cardinals.
Before entering the basilica, the procession halted to show the mortal remains to those present, who broke out in tears and applause.
The Pope’s body was followed by persons who were very close to him during his life, including Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, his secretary; Archbishop Piero Marini, master of pontifical liturgical ceremonies; Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the Pontifical Household; and Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Vatican Secretariat of State.
Also following the remains were three Polish nuns who have looked after the Pope over these years, and his personal physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, as well as spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls.
The Litany of Saints was intoned during the procession with the melody of Gregorian chant, while the bells tolled in mourning.