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Mourners Gather to View Pope As Cardinals Converge on Rome

BY Admin  April 4, 2005 at 1:30 PM EDT

The Vatican set the funeral of the pope for 10 a.m. local time Friday with the burial in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica, where pontiffs throughout the ages have been laid to rest.

John Paul died Saturday evening at age 84 from kidney and heart failure after two recent hospitalizations. The Polish-born pontiff led the Roman Catholic Church for 27 years, the third longest papacy in the history of the church.

The open-air funeral in St. Peter’s Square is expected to draw up to 2 million people, including heads of state from around the world. President Bush and his wife Laura have confirmed they will attend, and Prince Charles put off his wedding to Camilla Parker for a day so that he could go as well.

On Monday, 12 pallbearers, flanked by brightly uniformed Swiss guards, carried the pope’s body into St. Peter’s Square from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, where it had lain in state since Sunday. Hours before the public viewing was to begin Monday evening, mourners lined up more than half a mile from the square to the River Tiber.

“For me he was another Christ. He truly lived the life of Jesus. He showed us how to live, how to suffer, how to love and even how to die,” said Sister Simone from Austria, standing with fellow nuns from Mother Teresa’s order, Reuters reported.

“It’s extraordinary. It happens once in a lifetime. We want to be in the crowd,” said Uwe Kunzmann, a civil engineer from Karlsruhe, Germany, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the College of Cardinals held its first meeting Monday prior to selecting a new pontiff. At the 2-and-a-half-hour meeting, the cardinals took an oath of secrecy, as called for in the Vatican document outlining the procedures following the death of a pope.

By church law, the papal election, or conclave, must take place within two weeks of the burial. The next meeting of the cardinals was set for Tuesday.

There had been speculation that John Paul may have left orders to be buried in his native Poland, but Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pope “did not show any such wish,” reported the AP.