IN SAYING FAREWELL, the faithful repaid his devotion. With an estimated four million pilgrims flooding the streets of Rome, and hundreds of millions more watching via television around the globe, the Polish priest who many are now calling “John Paul the Great” was laid to rest last week.
Amid applause and chants of “Santo Subito!” (Sainthood Immediately!), Pope John Paul IPs final journey began with 12 white-gloved pallbearers carrying his coffin—a simple
cypress box adorned only with a cross and the letter M for the Virgin Mary—to an open-air altar in St. Peter’s Square. The Vatican’s Sistine Choir signalled the beginning of the mass with a Gregorian chant, “Grant Him Eternal Rest, O Lord.” The men who will choose his successor, the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, sat in long rows behind the altar, a stiff breeze tugging at their red robes and white mitres. Arrayed before the dais were hundreds of dignitaries and
more than 80 heads of states and monarchs—an unprecedented gathering of the powerful in tribute to a man who ministered to the weak.
The homily, delivered by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, remembered John Paul’s remarkable devotion, especially through his illness-plagued last years. “We can be sure
that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us,” he said. And after 2xh hours of breathtaking pageantry, a simple ending. In accordance with his request that he be interred “in the bare earth,” John Paul’s remains were laid in the grotto beneath St. Peter’s massive altar. The only indication of his resting place, say Church officials, will be a flat stone slab with his name and the dates of his birth and death. f]
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