German cardinal Ratzinger topreside over pope's funeral

4th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 April 2005, VATICAN CITY - German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is to preside over the pope's funeral on Friday, with German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to attend.

4 April 2005

VATICAN CITY - German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is to preside over the pope's funeral on Friday, with German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to attend.

Cardinals on Monday set Pope John Paul II's funeral for Friday and decreed that he should be buried underneath St. Peter's Basilica, where 2 million pilgrims are expected to pay their final tribute when the body goes on public display.

Clad in crimson, John Paul is to be transferred from the Apostolic Palace to St. Peter's on Monday afternoon. The body will lie in state for three days.

The funeral is to be held in St. Peter's Square at 10am (0800 GMT) and is to be presided by German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Details of the ceremony and of John Paul's burial emerged after a meeting of the General Congregation of Cardinals, a church body also tasked with organising the conclave that will elect a new pope.

Its first daily session on Monday was attended by around 60 cardinals, with their colleagues expected to join them in the coming days.

All of the 180 plus 'Princes of the Church' are summoned to the General Congregation, including those that are above the age of 80 and therefore not eligible to take part in the conclave.

Their first act is to take an oath of secrecy on "all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman pontiff".

In a briefing to reporters, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro- Valls said the Congregation had agreed that the pope will be buried in a crypt beneath St. Peter's basilica, along with a dozen other popes.

Asked to address speculation that the pope might have wished to be buried in his native Poland, Navarro-Valls said he had not received any information to that effect.

Reports out of Warsaw had also suggested the Vatican might eventually agree to have the pope's heart laid to rest alongside Polish kings in Krakow's Wawel Royal Cathedral.

John Paul was called "great" during a Mass in his honour on Sunday by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, an appellative that is usually reserved to popes who have become saints.

By doing so, Sodano lent his support to the growing number of people who argue that Karol Wojtyla should be placed on a fast-track to sainthood.

Italian and Vatican officials were, meanwhile, busy making arrangements for the funeral, which was being described in many quarters as a logistical and security nightmare.

US President George W. Bush, European royalty, religious leaders and heads of state and government from all continents are among those being invited, underscoring the global popularity of John Paul's pontificate. The organisational apparatus is being guided by the experienced hand of Guido Bertolaso, the head of Italy's Civil Defence, who also oversaw the signing of the European constitution in May 2004.

Security had already been stepped up around the Vatican, with some 10,000 policemen expected to be deployed in the area during the coming days.

German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is to attend the funeral, an aide said on Monday.

Germany's largely ceremonial president Horst Koehler, who is currently on a visit to Japan, will also represent Germany in Rome.

Two of Schroeder's most senior ministers, Joschka Fischer (foreign) and Otto Schily (interior), were also considering taking part, deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg said, but final decisions had not been taken.

Schroeder and his cabinet would also attend a requiem mass in Berlin's Catholic Cathedral of St. Hedwig, he added. The archdiocese of Berlin said the service, presided over by Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, had been rescheduled from Wednesday to Tuesday evening.

Books of condolence were open on Monday in many of Germany's 27 cathedrals, for example in Augsburg and Osnabrueck, where a diocesan spokesman said a wave of messages of sympathy had been received from both Catholics and those of other faiths.

In a 21st century touch, many people used web forums to publish condolence messages.

One, on the Osnabrueck site, said, "I'm not religious and don't believe in God, but it's so important to me that people like Mother Teresa or John Paul were selfless exemplars who gave hope to so many."

Some of the German dioceses adapted another German custom to remember the pope: paid death notices in leading daily newspapers.

The diocese of Mainz published several that called for prayers for the late pope and prayers for the election of a worthy successor.


Subject: German news

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