Spain comes to standstill for Pope John Paul II's funeral

8th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

8 April 2005, ROME-The King and Queen of Spain were among the heads of state attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

8 April 2005

ROME-The King and Queen of Spain were among the heads of state attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

They were joined by Spanish premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and other members of the Spanish political elite, including the head of the opposition, Mariano Rajoy.

They were among a list of VIP mourners which included UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, US President George W Bush, UK prime minister Tony Blair, Charles, Prince of  Wales and French President Jacques Chirac.

Tens of thousands of mourners packed St Peter's Square in Rome ahead of the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

About 200 world leaders were in attendance when the service began amid high security.

Giant video screens were placed around Rome for the many millions of other pilgrims who have flocked to the Italian capital.

Roman Catholics around the world will follow the funeral on television or attend Masses in their local churches.

When police opened St Peter's Square at dawn, many tens of thousands of waiting pilgrims scrambled to secure the best places to view the funeral.

They had camped out overnight close to the Vatican, spending their time singing, chatting or trying to sleep on the cobbled streets.

Many have travelled from across Europe by bus, car and train to be present despite warnings from officials to stay away because the city centre is already overwhelmed.

Spanish pilgrims were said to be the second biggest contingent after Poles to make the journey, sharing cars, flying, or taking boats to Rome.

In Spain itself, many interrupted their normal schedules to watch the funeral on television live.

Rome's authorities say that about 250,000 people can fit into the square, but the city has been deluged by an estimated four million pilgrims.

Officials urged pilgrims to stay in special tented areas on the outskirts of the city and watch the funeral on video screens.

But many defied the appeal.

The scale of the funeral was unprecedented.

It was to be a complicated mix of public and private ceremony, religious and political.

Airspace over the city is restricted and anti-aircraft missiles were prepared. Thousands of extra army and police were deployed.

Most cars were denied access to the centre of Rome.

The three-hour ceremony will be conducted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, which will begin electing the Pope's successor on 18 April.

At the end of the requiem Mass, the Pope was to be buried in the crypt below St Peter's Basilica, under a simple stone slab.

The 84-year-old pontiff's last will and testament was made public on Thursday, and indicated that he had considered resigning in 2000, when he reached 80.

The 15-page document- translated from the Pope's native Polish into Italian - was written over the course of his 26-year pontificate.

The will thanks other faiths, as well as scientists, artists and politicians, for their support throughout his life.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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