French train it to see Pope's funeral on TV

8th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

ROME, April 7 (AFP) - After 20 hours in a train from Paris to Rome, a group of hundreds of French pilgrims resigned themselves Thursday to the fact that they will have to watch Pope John Paul II's funeral on big-screen TVs.

ROME, April 7 (AFP) - After 20 hours in a train from Paris to Rome, a group of hundreds of French pilgrims resigned themselves Thursday to the fact that they will have to watch Pope John Paul II's funeral on big-screen TVs.

With authorities overwhelmed by the millions of people already in the Italian capital ahead of Friday's funeral, the French group abandoned any hope of getting anywhere near Saint Peter's Square.

Instead they will spend the night at the Circus Maximus, where they will watch the open-air requiem mass for John Paul II and funeral on Friday, set to begin at 10:00 am (0800 GMT).

But the 800 pilgrims from the Community of Emmanuel on the special train said they were not at all disappointed.

"It's just great being in Rome. A lot of people couldn't get away, so it's already wonderful to be able to make the trip," said Claire Abril, a 30-something Parisian.

"We didn't really leave thinking we would make it to Saint Peter's Square," added her brother Philippe.

The mainly young pilgrims turned the marathon train ride into a festive celebration, with a huge picnic late Wednesday, recitations of the rosary prayer - and a bit of sleep. At midday Thursday, some 10 priests said mass.

A group of students from Versailles outside Paris said they always knew that the huge number of mourners that have flooded into Rome since John Paul II died Saturday made their chances of getting near the funeral slim at best.

"We knew we wouldn't see the pope's body. We even thought they might force us to turn back," said Maguelone de Bruguiere.

Maud de Bengey admitted she was disappointed at not getting to Saint Peter's Square, but said she was pleased "just to have made the trip as it was decided at the last minute".

Sister Catherine - wearing white robes, a brown shawl and wooden cross - said she "expected the worst in order not to be disappointed".

"We're going to experience something important, something that goes straight to the heart. The fact that the pope made his passage into eternal life during the Easter holiday allows us all to touch heaven," she said.

Gilles Malartre, the French leader of the Community of Emmanuel, noted: "Watching television at home, or travelling 1,500 kilometers to commune and pray with other pilgrims - it's not the same thing."

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article