- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

VATICAN CITY — John Paul II’s crimson-clad body was laid in state in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace yesterday after an emotional open-air Mass in St. Peter’s Square attended by about 200,000 mourners.

Vatican television showed the body clothed in red vestments with a white bishop’s miter. It was the first image released of the Polish pope since his death Saturday evening at 84.

The Holy See issued the pontiff’s official death certificate yesterday, attributing his passing to “septic shock and an irreversible cardio-circulatory collapse” and listing the ailments he suffered from, including Parkinson’s disease.

Two Swiss Guards stood at attention on either side of the pope’s remains in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Vatican television showed. John Paul’s head was supported by gold pillows, a rosary in his hands and his pastoral staff under his left arm.

His body was laid out before a fireplace decorated with the Vatican coat of arms. On one side of the body was a crucifix, and on the other, a votive candle flickered. On his feet were simple, soft brown-leather shoes similar to the kind he always wore, eschewing more elaborate footwear even on ceremonial occasions.

Cardinals from the Roman Curia, the central government of the church, filed past the pope’s body in the 17th-century hall decorated with frescoes. The body was also viewed by members of the Vatican diplomatic corps and other dignitaries, including Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

John Paul’s cherished personal secretary, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz, received the visitors, sometimes tearfully, or knelt in prayer at a pew in the hall.

The pope’s body is to be taken to St. Peter’s Basilica this evening to be venerated for three days by the faithful. In Rome, a text message circulated on cell phones urged people to place lighted candles in their windows to “light up the road to God for him, the way he did for us.”

Senior church officials will meet today to decide when to hold the pope’s funeral, which is expected to draw about 2 million people to St. Peter’s Square. Vatican sources said the funeral cannot be held before Thursday.

Until a new pope is chosen, church affairs are effectively in the hands of the Vatican camerlengo or chamberlain, 78-year-old Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, who yesterday read prayers in Latin in front of the pope’s body.

“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,” the prelate said.

“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.”

The newspaper La Stampa reported that the pope’s body was not being embalmed to prevent decay during its veneration. The newspaper quoted the Rome mortuary technician dealing with John Paul’s body before burial, Massimo Signoracci, as saying he will treat the body with “a light ‘preservation’ with injections.”

Mr. Signoracci is the heir to the two famed Signoracci brothers, Ernesto and Arnaldo, who dealt with the bodies of popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul I.

At the pope’s funeral, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the dean of the College of Cardinals, will preside over the Mass to be concelebrated by all other “Princes of the Church.”

According to Holy See protocol, which is adhered to rigidly in the tiny Vatican city-state so as to ensure continuity between popes, the funeral marks the start of the Novendial, or nine days of funeral celebrations and mourning.

The apostolic constitution, the Universi Dominici Gregis (“the Lord’s whole flock”), promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1996, states that the funeral is to “take place, except for special reasons, between the fourth and sixth day after death.”

St. Peter’s Square and surrounding streets were blocked off yesterday with traffic snarled in surrounding districts for hours as about 200,000 Romans, pilgrims and tourists attended an outdoor suffrage Mass for John Paul.

The crowding underlined the logistical headaches facing authorities in the city in preparing for the funeral. A special mixed commission is being set up between the Holy See and the Italian state to manage the event.

Il Messaggero newspaper said authorities estimate about 2 million people will attend the funeral.

The pope’s long months of precarious health evidently gave the Holy See considerable time to think ahead about how to organize an event that Vatican officials previously considered in bad taste to discuss publicly.

After the funeral, the Polish pope’s body will be closed inside a coffin with an outer wall of walnut, a middle lining of lead and a third, interior lining of cypress wood.

In the past, there had been intermittent speculation that John Paul might have wanted to be buried at the Wawel Cathedral at Krakow in his homeland. But Vatican sources say he almost certainly will be entombed in the grotto under St. Peter’s Basilica, where nearly all pontiffs have been laid to rest.

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