History Is Made In Rome Crowds Largest I History

Italian officials warned that newcomers would not reach the basilica before Thursday night, when the public viewing ends.
Millions Overflow Streets of Rome to Pay Tribute to Pope


VATICAN CITY, April 6 – The streets around St. Peter’s Basilica swelled with an estimated million pilgrims today, nearly double the barely manageable number the day before. That meant Julie and Christy Krommer, sisters from Cincinnati, were likely to wait in line to see the body of Pope John Paul II longer than the nine hours it took to fly here.

"Because of everything John Paul did for us, any amount of waiting is fine," said Julie Krommer, 23, a mechanical engineer who arrived in Rome at 3 a.m. local time today, as the waiting times to see the pope’s body stretched to 10 or 12 hours or more.

On a day when cardinals announced they would begin selecting a new pope on April 18, the crowds in this sudden pilgrimage for John Paul, who died on Saturday, overflowed as people from around Europe and North America began arriving in Rome in huge numbers.

The surge was so great that Italian officials sent out text messages to cellphones and broadcast warnings on the radio for people not to join the huge line: Newcomers, they warned, would not reach the basilica before Thursday night, when the public viewing ends in anticipation of the pope’s funeral and burial on Friday, itself an unprecedented spectacle here with heads of state from over 100 nations and hundreds of thousands of spectators.

By this evening, overwhelmed public safety officials said they would shut down the line at 10 p.m., though they had not decided how to do it as pilgrims kept arriving. The line had grown so big that it split in two – one curving through the narrow streets of Vatican City and a second along the Tiber River – amid much strain and a striking mix of the spiritual and the physical: There were songs and prayers and much patience, as well as fatigue, sunburn and borderline bad behavior.

"They have called me mean, they say I have no pity," said Mariana Santoliquido, 27, who works in a café at about the point where people waited in line for 10 hours. She was yelled at because the café stopped letting pilgrims use the bathroom, though she said so many used it the day before the toilet actually ripped off its bolts in the floor.

The abuse was so bad, she said, the café was forced to hire a bodyguard.

"The ugly thing about all this is that the nature of the crowd is so different from what they are here for," she said.

With a handful of exceptions, the crowd was calm in what is turning out to be a huge weeklong celebration of the life of John Paul II that is clearly pleasing church officials – even it has raised questions about whether the church can sustain such fervent enthusiasm for the next pope.

"Splendid!" enthused one of the most powerful cardinals, Renato Martino, as he walked through the crowds just outside the basilica and browsed a stand selling cheap John Paul II cards and rosaries.

Down the street, the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, editor of the Catholic magazine America, who arrived in Rome from New York on this morning, said the numbers showed a level of personal affection for John Paul II – here in Italy and around the world – that many people did not fully grasp before his death.

"The numbers are extraordinary," Father Reese said. "I had heard about the numbers but coming here and seeing it is overwhelming. And it’s just getting bigger."

As the Vatican prepared for the elaborate and high-powered funeral Mass on Friday, cardinals met for the third day since the pope’s death and settled the first important detail in the selection of a new pope.

Dr. Joaquín Navarro-Valls, the chief Vatican spokesman, said the conclave of cardinals to elect the next pope would begin on April 18, at 10 a.m. after a Mass. There are 117 so-called elector cardinals, those under 80 years of age, and they will meet twice a day in secrecy and cut off from the world until they choose a new pope.

Meantime, the number of cardinals of all ages traveling to Rome, for the funeral and then the conclave, continued to rise: At the meeting today, there were 116 cardinals, 32 of who just arrived here, Dr. Navarro-Valls said.

He announced too that the Vatican would release on Thursday the pope’s last testament – a sort of "spiritual" will of 15 pages that he began writing the year after he was chosen pope, in 1979, and added to over the years.

Dr. Navarro-Valls also announced that, in the testament, the pope did not reveal the name of a cardinal he appointed "in pectore," or "close to the heart" – meaning that the identity of the cardinal will likely never be known. Such a secret naming is usually done for cardinals in countries where Catholics face oppression.

"This is a question that will not present itself again," Dr. Navarro-Valls said.

Jason Horowitz of The New York Times and Elisabetta Povoledo of The International Herald Tribune contributed reporting from Rome for this article.

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