Pope John Paul II Buried Today

Friday, April 08, 2005

Italian security forces watched as pilgrims ran into St. Peter’s Square to get a position for the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

Sister Amanda Ross of Detroit carried an American flag through the street leading toward the Vatican before the funeral

James Hill for The New York Times

Flags of the countries whose faithful had come to celebrate the burial mass of Pope John Paul II flew in St. Peter’s Square as priests prepared to give communion

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

St. Peter’s Square was overflowing with those wishing to pay their respects to the pope.

Filippo Monteforte/AFP – Getty Images

Heads of states and delegations; cardinals, center, in red; and bishops and priests, right, prayed during the funeral mass.

Vincenzo Pinto/AFP – Getty Images

The coffin carrying the body of the pope was brought outside and placed before the altar on the esplanade in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Olivier Hoslet/European Pressphoto Agency

The funeral began this morning in St. Peter’s Square before a somber throng of national and religious leaders and pilgrims from around the world.

James Hill for The New York Times

Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Church waved incense over the coffin of the pope.

James Hill for The New York Times

Cardinal Josef Ratzinger of Germany, who delivered the homily, sprinkled holy water on the coffin.

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

A Polish nun and a young Polish woman in St. Peter’s Square shared headphones to listen to the funeral.

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Pilgrims wept and applauded for the pope.

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

A young Polish man wept as the coffin of the pope was carried away.

James Hill for The New York Times

Cardinals of the church filed to their seats as great numbers in the crowd stood watching at full attention

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

A father and son bowed their heads at the funeral.

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

A Polish nun listened to the funeral.

Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

Twelve pallbearers with white gloves, white ties and tails then carried the coffin on their shoulders back inside for burial, after holding the coffin to face the multitude for a prolonged moment, as the great bell of St. Peter’s pealed, and waves of applause swept through the audience.

A Huge Throng Gives Waves of Applause to a Beloved Pope

VATICAN CITY, April 8 – Pope John Paul II was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica today after an outdoor funeral Mass witnessed by hundreds of thousands, the important and the ordinary alike, and watched by millions more on television.

"None of us can ever forget how, in the last Easter Sunday of his life, the holy father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the apostolic palace and one last time gave his blessing," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who knew the pope for nearly three decades, said in his homily as he pointed up from St. Peter’s Square to the window of the papal apartment.

"We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that he sees and blesses us," Cardinal Ratzinger added. "Yes, bless us, holy father."

The crowd, which filled St. Peter’s Square and flowed down to the Tiber River, broke out into applause, in a breeze that billowed flags from around the world, caught the red hats of cardinals and flipped the pages of the book of the Gospel resting on John Paul’s plain cypress coffin. Amid tight security and worry over a terror attack, helicopter rotors chopped through the sound of Latin hymns throughout the three-hour ceremony.

It was the biggest funeral for a pope in the 2,000 or so years of the office.

To the coffin’s right were heads of state from more than 70 countries, an unprecedented collection of power from five continents for a papal funeral: In the second row, the first American president to attend a papal funeral, George W. Bush, sat with his wife, Laura. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prince Charles of Britain, President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, President Mohammad Khatami of Iran and President Moshe Katsav of Israel all attended, along with four kings and six queens and the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan.

There were also representatives from all the world’s major religions.

Behind the coffin, in bright red robes, sat more than 100 cardinals – one of whom is almost certain to become pope in the coming weeks.

And on the streets, the massive pilgrimage that has swamped Rome since John Paul died last Saturday at age 84 continued in force around St. Peter’s, though not in the same extraordinary numbers as during the four days his body was on display inside the basilica.

An estimated two million people filed past his corpse after it was placed on public view on Monday, and Italian officials estimated that three million or more people had made the pilgrimage to Rome to be present in some way as the little-known Polish cardinal who was elevated to pope in 1978 was finally laid to rest.

But today, with so many world leaders present and the potential for trouble high, the Italian authorities all but shut down central Rome, making it difficult to get to St. Peter’s Square. Car and truck traffic was banned – as V.I.P. motorcades zipped into and then out of town – and schools and public offices were closed. Security helicopters and fighter jets flew around airspace closed to private planes.

Rather than march downtown, tens of thousands of people watched the funeral on nearly 30 huge TV displays around Rome. Italian officials said that in all, about one million people watched the service in public settings around the city. The Mass was also broadcast worldwide on television and radio.

But no amount of security or hardship could keep away from St. Peter’s the most devoted, including perhaps several hundred thousand Poles who had driven to Italy, many forsaking sleep for several days and a place to stay. Red-and-white Polish flags, many topped with black ribbons of mourning, waved in huge numbers in the plaza.

"He broke Communism and he loved peace," said Tom Czuwara, 17, who had come from Warsaw, explaining why he and 50 schoolmates drove 30 hours to be at the funeral.

Kyrian Atuogo, 27, spent nearly a year’s salary to come to Rome from Nigeria, and came to the funeral with a friend carrying a huge green-and-white Nigerian flag.

"He is like the president of the world," Mr. Atuogo, a civil servant, said of the pope. "He was so nice to us, so we decided to spend our money to give him our last respects."

Some carried huge banners reading in Italian: "Santo subito" – a plea to make John Paul a saint immediately.

It was, in all, a day of extraordinary spectacle and tradition, played out on the ancient streets around the Vatican, in piazzas around Rome and, above all, in St. Peter’s Square, enfolded in the ellipse of Bernini’s graceful colonnade, in the company of the obelisk dragged from Alexandria by the Emperor Caligula and a dome designed by Michelangelo.

The last major papal funeral was for Pope Paul VI in August 1978, and it attracted as many as 100,000 people, a number that the Vatican said had been the largest papal funeral ever. Ninety-five nations were represented then but only a handful of heads of state. (The October 1978 funeral of John Paul I, whose papacy lasted barely a month, followed the same protocol as the rituals for Paul and John Paul II, but because it had been such a brief papacy was on a far more modest scale.)

The funeral for John Paul II – who had himself traveled to 129 countries as pope – was of a different order, in size, in the guest list from many of the countries he had visited, in the outpouring of affection, even among those who differed with him on many issues.

"He followed doctrine too much," Francesca Tatoli, 20, a student, who nonetheless traveled enthusiastically from the southern Italian city of Bari to attend the funeral. She said she disagreed strongly with John Paul’s condemnation of contraception, because she believes condoms help fight the spread of AIDS.

"At the same time, he was a good man," she added, "and that’s why all these people are here."

In fact, the funeral itself – with its many guests who normally have much to argue about among themselves – stood as a distinctive testament to John Paul: that people around the world found things in him and his long and eventful pontificate to admire, and, perhaps especially in death, they were willing to overlook what they disagreed with.

Without modifying church doctrine on Jesus as the Christ, the only true mediator of salvation, John Paul reached out like no other pope to Jews and Muslims – an effort attested to today by the number and diversity of political and religious leaders who came to his funeral, including, for example, dignitaries from Israel and Saudi Arabia alike.

John Paul’s views on abortion and the sanctity of human life resonated with President Bush’s conservative politics, even if the pope’s outspoken opposition to capital punishment and both American-led wars in Iraq did not. And his forceful stance on Iraq helped his standing among Muslims.

Many Italians, like liberal Catholics in the United States and elsewhere, were attracted by his warmth and concern about poverty and social justice, even if they ignored his teaching on issues like contraception, divorce or abortion.

The guest list today also reflected several problems for the church: the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, did not attend, nor did any top patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has ongoing conflicts with the Roman church.

China did not sent a delegation because the Vatican has no official ties with the state-sponsored Catholic church there.

Although John Paul was the most traveled pope in history, he never got to fulfill his expressed wish to visit Russia and China.

In his homily today, Cardinal Ratzinger, 77, sketched out the life of John Paul, saying that the key to understanding him was the words Christ spoke to Peter after his resurrection: "Follow me." He spoke of John Paul’s loss of his mother at a young age; his working in a chemical plant in Poland; his love as a young man of philosophy, theology and poetry; his pastoral work as a priest.

But the homily focused more tightly on what John Paul II had accomplished as pope in 26 years. And Cardinal Ratzinger, a conservative expected to play a major role in selecting the next pope, said it was the pope’s charisma as well as his doctrinal clarity that gave preaching the Gospels "a new vitality, a new urgency."

"He roused us from a lethargic faith, from the sleep of the disciples of both yesterday and today," he said.

The cardinal also spoke of John Paul’s illness and age, repeating what many in the Vatican had said as the pope’s health, and in the end his voice, failed: that in his last years, his papacy stood as an important symbol of dignity in suffering.

"The pope suffered," he said, "and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful."

For all that was unprecedented about John Paul’s funeral, the basics followed centuries of Vatican tradition. It was a Mass, if one that alternated among 10 languages, and so there were no other speakers or testimonials apart from Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily.

This morning, as guests gathered for the funeral, John Paul’s body was sprinkled with holy water and his face was covered with a white veil. He was sealed in a cypress coffin along with some Vatican coins, then carried out of the basilica by 12 pallbearers dressed in black.

The crowd erupted in applause when the coffin – marked with a cross and an M for the Virgin Mary – came out into the sun and was placed at the top of the stairs.

After the mass, the coffin was carried into the grottoes beneath the basilica, built over the spot where tradition holds is the tomb St. Peter, who brought Christianity to Rome. There, among the bodies of more than 70 of the 264 popes, the Vatican camerlengo, or chamberlain, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez-Somalo, who administers the business of the church until a new pope is chosen, presided over a ceremony in which the cypress coffin was placed inside a zinc coffin, which was then closed inside an oak casket.

In his last testament, made public on Thursday, John Paul requested that he be buried in the earth, not interred above ground. He was buried in the spot that had held the body of Pope John XXIII, which was moved to a sepulcher inside the basilica in 2001.

But before the coffin was taken to the grottoes, the pallbearers lifted it up off the basilica steps, then, carefully turning around, held it out to face the tens of thousands of pilgrims in the crowd for a prolonged moment. The bell of St. Peter’s tolled. Waves of applause swept through the people in the crowd, many of them weeping.

"I knew the ceremony today would be majestic, but I didn’t realize how moved I would be by the service itself," President Bush told reporters on Air Force One as he flew home. "Today’s ceremony, I bet you, was a reaffirmation for millions."

Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting for this article.
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