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Archive of April 7, 2005

Conclave to start afternoon of April 18

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin  Navarro-Valls gave a briefing early this afternoon on the fourth General Congregation of cardinals that was held this morning in the Vatican, during which he announced that the conclave to elect the successor of John Paul II will start the afternoon of Monday, April 18.

He said that "the Fourth General Congregations of Cardinals was held this morning in the New Synod Hall in the Vatican,  beginning at 10 a.m.

"There were 116 cardinals present, 31 of whom are newly arrived, who swore their prescribed oath. The number of  cardinals present in Rome at this moment is 122.

"In today's general congregation the cardinals were informed of both the official delegations coming from throughout the world for the funeral of the Holy Father on Friday morning, and the delegations from diverse Christian denominations and from other religions.

"The cardinals also considered several particular questions relative to the funeral Mass of the Holy Father and the celebrations of the 'novendiali', (nine official days of mourning with a Mass each day for the Holy Father) in particular for the 'cappelle papali' of Saturday, April 9, Tuesday, April 12 and Saturday, April 16.

"Also taken into consideration was the request made by many parties to bring the remains of the Holy Father - on Friday, April 8, following the funeral Mass but before burial - to St. John Lateran Basilica to allow for veneration by the Roman faithful and others who were unable to come to St. Peter's Basilica. After attentively studying the matter it was concluded that this hypothesis was not technically possible. Therefore, as pre-announced, the burial in the Vatican Grottoes will take place immediately after the funeral Mass.

"The Will of the Holy Father was read and it was decided to publish it in its entirety tomorrow in the original Polish language and in an Italian translation.

"The date for the start of the conclave was set for Monday, April 18. In the morning there will be the votive Mass 'pro eligendo papa' in the Vatican Basilica. In early afternoon the cardinals will enter into conclave in the Sistine Chapel.

"I can confirm that the Holy Father John Paul II, before his death, did not communicate the name of the cardinal reserved 'in pectore' in the consistory of October 2003. Therefore, this is no longer a question."

Journalists asked if it would be possible for them to see the Sistine Chapel before the start of the conclave and Navarro-Valls responded by noting that, as there are 3,500 accredited journalists, this would be logistically impossible. He said that a video would be shown to them, featuring all the sites in the Vatican associated with a conclave.

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Polish intellectual highlights Pope’s profound respect for women, maternity and celibacy

Rome, Italy, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Wanda Poltawska, one of Poland’s brightest scholars on the philosophy of Pope John Paul II, revealed details of Karol Wojtila’s profound vision about women, sexuality and parenthood.

Poltawska, who formed part of a group of young Catholic intellectuals who were close to then-Father Wojtila, noted that, “Ever since he was a young priest, the Holy Father consecrated all of his time to contact with the youth…in order to observe the human person and to truly understand who man is as such.”

Karol Wojtila “wanted to save the holiness of human love,” Poltawska said.  “Women are the ones most in danger, especially young women.  The heart of a woman is her treasure and her danger. And John Paul II was concerned, above all, about caring for them.”

Poltawska revealed that the future Pope always reminded men “they should respect women because they have received life thanks to women, to mothers, who have given their blood for the life of a new human person.”

“Maternity, as a divine plan, was fascinating to him.  As a young priest, we wrote a poem about mothers, a tribute to their fundamental role.”

For Pope John Paul II, “masculinity unfolds in the role of the father, who should help his wife and protect his children,” she added.

According to Poltawska, “The Holy Father always believed celibacy to be holy.  Because it gives priests this divine strength allowing them to develop in holiness, without sin, without neglect, without anything, because they have a grace that comes from the sacrament of the priesthood.”

The Pope “spoke of holy celibacy, which is freely embraced, as a way of fulfilling the divine plan in oneself.  Not a celibacy that is assumed simply because one is not able to find a spouse.  He saw celibacy as the fullness of possibilities, as fuller and more developed parenthood.  Priests are spiritual fathers.  Because of celibacy, a priest can have thousands of children.  The potentiality of a priest to develop himself as father is greater than that of a man who has one or two children,” Poltawska explained.

Poltawska concluded her interview lamenting that today, “respect for mothers has disappeared.  Women do not understand that their greatness is because of maternity. Some girls are stupid and do not understand; they do not want to be mothers.  And men do not treat mothers as persons they should appreciate for their gift of life.”

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Australian bishops recognize John Paul’s ‘extraordinary legacy’

Canberra, Australia, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II was “a much-loved leader of the Church who leaves an extraordinary legacy,” said the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Archbishop Francis Carroll of Canberra and Goulburn said he was deeply saddened by the death of Pope John Paul II.

He recognized the pope’s instrumental role in shaping world events, particularly in relation to the fall of Eastern bloc Communism.

“The recent intense focus on his declining health served to illustrate the place he held in the life of the world,” Archbishop Carroll said.

“Pope John Paul II took the papacy to the people, becoming the most traveled Pope in history,” he added.

Pope John Paul II visited Australia twice as Pope and once as the cardinal archbishop of Krakow. He holds a special place in the history of the nation through his beatification of Mother Mary MacKillop, the first step in creating Australia's first saint.

He was the second Pope to visit Australia. Pope Paul VI had visited in 1970.

"To all Australians, people of undoubted goodwill, I come as a friend: to urge you to pursue in your lives all those values worthy of the human person; to encourage you to be open-hearted, generous to the unfortunate and caring towards those who are pushed to the margins of life," he said during a seven-day visit in 1986.

At an open air Mass for more than 200,000 people at Randwick Racecourse, he made an impassioned plea for people to return to the Church.

"To all those who have wandered from their spiritual home, I wish to say: Come back! The Church opens her arms to you, the Church loves you!"

His second papal visit was for the beatification of Mother Mary MacKillop, the founder of the Josephite order of sisters.

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John Paul taught that dignity comes from God, says cardinal

London, England, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II, especially in his dying hours, taught the world what it means to be human, said Cardinal Corman Murphy-O’Connor. Prior to leaving for Britain’s top Catholic cleric reflected on the death and life of Pope John Paul II. 

He commented that the attention the Pope’s final days and death have received in the international media and around the world was amazing, moving and a testament to the importance of his teaching.

“The lesson he gave us was that our dignity comes from God, and nothing, nothing, can take it away: not suffering, not even death. It is that part of us which is made by God and for God,” the cardinal-archbishop of Westminster said.

“Pope John Paul II gave of himself to the world; and in his final days the world gathered round him quite simply to give thanks for him,” he observed.

“This is a solemn time,” the cardinal stated. “The Catholic Church—and perhaps, in some senses, all Christians—have lost their shepherd; we are, in these days, missing a visible expression of our unity.”

Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said: “Pope John Paul was a leader of manifest holiness and a faithful and prayerful friend of the Anglican Church.”

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Pope never wavered or lost hope: Tony Blair

London, England, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - Prime Minister Tony Blair remembers meeting Pope John Paul II with his family two years ago. The Pope “radiated such warmth and kindness that the meeting was unforgettable,” he said.

Upon hearing the news of the Pope’s death, the British prime minister issued a statement, which read: “The world has lost a religious leader who was revered across people of all faiths and none.

“He was an inspiration, a man of extraordinary faith, dignity and courage,” Blair’s statement continued. “Throughout a hard and often difficult life, he stood for social justice and on the side of the oppressed. … He never wavered, never flinched in the struggle for what he thought was good and right.

“Yet whatever his own hardship and experience of what was wrong in human nature, he never lost faith in the human spirit and its ultimate capacity to do good,” he stated. “He will be remembered with profound respect and admiration.”

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Italian university students pray for Pope

Rome, Italy, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - University students in Rome have been gathering to pray for Pope John Paul II. The Pope was close to young people and held several conferences for university students in Rome during his pontificate.

At the Maria SS. Assunta University, a liturgy was planned to take place in the law faculty. Students at Istituto universitario di scienze motorie participated at a liturgy in the nearby Lauro De Bosis Square.

At the Campus biomedico, Msgr. Rino Fisichella, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University celebrated a liturgy on campus. Finally, the students of St. Pius V University and the European University of Rome gathered for a memorial mass at their respective chapels.

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National March for Marriage in Ottawa this weekend

Ottawa, Canada, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - Thousands of Canadians are expected to converge on Ottawa this weekend for the March for Marriage and Freedom.

Participants will meet at the Supreme Court building April 9 at noon and march to Parliament Hill, where a number of speakers from different cultural and faith perspectives will take the microphone. The four-hour demonstration will also include prayer and music.

Communities in cities surrounding Ottawa and from as far away as Toronto and Montreal are organizing busloads of people to attend the march.

The rally is a grassroots effort to express opposition to the same-sex marriage legislation recently introduced by Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberal government. Among the 14 sponsoring organizations are the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Civil Rights League, the Canada Family Action Coalition, and the Multi-faith Coalition for the Defence of Traditional Marriage.

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1,200 pack Denver Cathedral for John Paul II memorial

Denver, Colo., Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - For the second night in less than a week, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Denver overflowed with people wishing to say farewell to Pope John Paul II, a man who shepherded the Catholic Church for 26 years before his death on Saturday. 

A cavalcade of religious and civic leaders accompanied some 100 priests and deacons from around Colorado in a testament to the far-reaching influence of the Holy Father.

Over 1,200 attended the standing room only Mass along side leaders from Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, and other Christian faiths.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, in honor of the solemn occasion, donned vestments worn by Pope John Paul during his 1993 Denver visit for the World Youth Day celebration. A chalice used by the pope during his Mass at Immaculate Conception was also used at the memorial.

In his homily, the Archbishop noted that John Paul II taught us that, “none of us are completely autonomous human beings. We must live first for the Lord, and then for others.”

He also noted the pope’s humility, especially near the end of his life: An actor, a playwright “who used to command a crowd…He had control of every situation, but was now an old man who could hardly speak.”

Archbishop Chaput said that the pope epitomized the famous quote of St. Irenaeus: ‘The glory of God is man fully alive.’ “John Paul”, he said, “was a man fully alive…he was luminous because of his relationship with God.”

At the end of Mass, echoing an Italian tradition, a prolonged applause honoring the life of a man that many are calling ‘John Paul the Great’, erupted.

Members of Denver’s St. Joseph Polish Parish, donning traditional Polish garb, waved large Polish flags during the tear-filled stream of applause.

Brian Larkin, a 25-year old seminarian from Denver told CNA that, the example of the pope’s life showed him that “anything is possible if you unite yourself with Christ.”

Noting the broad representation from various religions and denominations, Larkin said that the evening showed him “what a father [John Paul] was to the whole world—not just to the Catholic Church, but to the whole human family.”

Added Dave Nix, another from the large group of Denver seminarians: “He’s a hero.”

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Vatican releases John Paul II’s will

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, the Vatican released the last will and spiritual testament of Pope John Paul II, read yesterday for the first time by gathered cardinals.

The frequently updated document, originally written in the pope’s native Polish, expresses the pope’s profound gratitude for all those who have accompanied him in his time as pontiff.

Quoting the words of Matthew’s Gospel, which read, "Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming,” the Holy Father wrote that “these words remind me of the last call, which will happen at the moment the Lord wishes.

He continued: “I desire to follow Him, and I desire that everything making up part of my earthly life should prepare me for this moment. I do not know when the moment will come, but like everything else, I place it too in the hands of the Mother of my Master: Totus Tuus.”

John Paul recalled in his testament the words spoken to him by Polish Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski who told him upon his election in 1978 that, "The duty of the new Pope will be to introduce the Church into the Third Millennium."

In this light, the pope wrote of his symbolic opening of the doors in various basilicas around Rome in honor of the great Jubilee of 2000.

Recalling specifically, the opening of the Door of the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Holy Father wrote that, “This last event, given its ecumenical character, has remained impressed in my memory in a special way.”

He also revealed that he had considered retirement in 2000 after having led the Church into the Jubilee.

John Paul likewise reflected on the protection of Mary during the assassination attempt on his life in 1981 and on the great significance of the Second Vatican Council.

“I am convinced”, he wrote, “that for a long time to come the new generations will draw upon the riches that this Council of the 20th century gave us. As a bishop who participated in this conciliar event from the first to the last day, I wish to entrust this great patrimony to all those who are and who will be called in the future to realize it.”

The pope also noted that he left behind no material possessions to bequeath other than some small items that he used day to day. He asked that his personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz distribute these accordingly.

116 cardinals will gather at the Sistine Chapel on April 18th to prayerfully elect the successor to John Paul II.

Read a summary of the document at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=57

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Vatican releases Pope’s testament: moving reflexion on life, death and Christ’s Salvation

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - The following is an English summary of the official Vatican Italian translation of the text of Pope John Paul II's last will and testament, which was originally written in Polish with successive additions.

The testament of 6.3.1979
(and successive additions)
"Totus Tuus ego sum"

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity. Amen.

"Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming" (cf. Mt 24, 42) - these words remind me of the last call, which will happen at the moment the Lord wishes. I desire to follow Him, and I desire that everything making up part of my earthly life should prepare me for this moment. I do not know when the moment will come, but like everything else, I place it too in the hands of the Mother of my Master: Totus Tuus. In the same maternal Hands I leave everything and everyone with whom my life and vocation have linked me. In these Hands I leave, above all, the Church, as well as my Nation and all humanity. I thank everyone. Of everyone I ask forgiveness. I also ask for prayer, that the Mercy of God may appear greater than my weakness and unworthiness.

During the spiritual exercises I re-read the testament of the Holy Father Paul VI. That reading prompted me to write this testament.

I leave no property behind me of which it is necessary to dispose. As for the everyday objects that were of use to me, I ask they be distributed as seems appropriate. My personal notes are to be burned. I ask that this be attended to by Fr. Stanislaw, whom I thank for his collaboration and help, so prolonged over the years and so understanding. As for all other thanks, I leave them in my heart before God Himself, because it is difficult to express them.

As for the funeral, I repeat the same dispositions as were given by the Holy Father Paul VI. (Here is a note in the margin: burial in the bare earth, not in a sarcophagus, 13.3.92).

"apud Dominum misericordia
et copiosa apud Eum redemptio"

John Paul pp. II
Rome, 6.III.1979

********

After my death I ask for Masses and prayers.

5.III.1990

********

Undated sheet of paper

I express my profound trust that, despite all  my weakness, the Lord will grant me all the grace necessary to face according to His will any task, trial or suffering that He will ask of His servant, in the course of his life. I also trust that He will never allow me - through some attitude of mine: words, deeds or omissions - to betray my obligations in this holy Petrine See.

********

24.II - 1.III.1980

Also during these spiritual exercises, I have reflected on the truth of the Priesthood of Christ in the perspective of that Transit that for each of us is the moment of our own death. For us the Resurrection of Christ is an eloquent (added above: decisive) sign of departing from this world - to be born in the next, in the future world.

I have read, then, the copy of my testament from last year, also written during the spiritual exercises - I compared it with the testament of my great predecessor and Father, Paul VI, with that sublime witness to death of a Christian and a Pope - and I have renewed within me an awareness of the questions to which the copy of 6.III.1979 refers, prepared by me (in a somewhat provisional way).

Today I wish to add only this: that each of us must bear in mind the prospect of death. And must be ready to present himself before the Lord and Judge - Who is at the same time Redeemer and Father. I too continually take this into consideration, entrusting that decisive moment to the Mother of Christ and of the Church - to the Mother of my hope.

The times in which we live are unutterably difficult and disturbed. The path of the Church has also become difficult and tense, a characteristic trial of these times - both for the Faithful and for Pastors. In some Countries (as, for example, in those about which I read during the spiritual exercises), the Church is undergoing a period of such persecution as to be in no way lesser than that of early centuries, indeed it surpasses them in its degree of cruelty and hatred. "Sanguis martyrum - semen christianorum.". And apart from this - many people die innocently even in this Country in which we are living.

Once again, I wish to entrust myself totally to the Lord's grace. He Himself will decide when and how I must end my earthly life and pastoral ministry. In life and in death, Totus Tuus in Mary Immaculate. Accepting that death, even now, I hope that Christ will give me the grace for the final passage, in other words (my) Easter. I also hope that He makes (that death) useful for this more important cause that I seek to serve: the salvation of men and women, the safeguarding of the human family and, in that, of all nations and all peoples (among them, I particularly address my earthly Homeland), and useful for the people with whom He particularly entrusted me, for the question of the Church, for the glory of God Himself.

I do not wish to add anything to what I wrote a year ago - only to express this readiness and, at the same time, this trust, to which the current spiritual exercises have again disposed me.

John Paul II

********

Totus Tuus ego sum
5.III.1982

In the course of this year's spiritual exercises I have read (a number of times) the text of the testament of 6.III.1979. Although I still consider it provisional (not definitive), I leave it in the form in which it exists. I change nothing (for now), and neither do I add anything, as concerns the dispositions contained therein.

The attempt upon my life on 13.V.1981 in some way confirmed the accuracy of the words written during the period of the spiritual exercises of 1980 (24.II - 1.III).

All the more deeply I now feel that I am totally in the Hands of God - and I remain continually at the disposal of my Lord, entrusting myself to Him in His Immaculate Mother (Totus Tuus)

John Paul  pp.II

********

5.III.82

In connection with the last sentence in my testament of 6.III.1979 ("concerning the site / that is, the site of the funeral / let the College of Cardinals and Compatriots decide") - I will make it clear that I have in mind: the metropolitan of Krakow or the General Council of the Episcopate of Poland - In the meantime I ask the College of Cardinals to satisfy, as far as possible, any demands of the above-mentioned.

********

1.III.1985 (during the spiritual exercises)

Again - as regards the expression "College of Cardinals and Compatriots": the "College of Cardinals" has no obligation to consult "Compatriots" on this subject, however it can do so, if for some reason it feels it is right to do so.

JPII

********

Spiritual exercise of the Jubilee Year 2000 (12-18.III)
(for my testament)

1. When, on October 16, 1978 the conclave of cardinals chose John Paul II, the primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski told me: "The duty of the new Pope will be to introduce the Church into the Third Millennium." I don't know if I am repeating this sentence exactly, but at least this was the sense of what I heard at the time. This was said by the Man who entered history as the primate of the Millennium. A great primate. I was a witness to his mission, to his total entrustment. To his battles. To his victory. "Victory, when it comes, will be a victory through Mary" - The primate of the Millennium used to repeat these words of his predecessor, Cardinal August Hlond.

In this way I was prepared in some manner for the duty that presented itself to me on October 16, 1978. As I write these words, the Jubilee Year 2000 is already a reality. The night of December 24, 1999 the symbolic Door of the Great Jubilee in the Basilica of St. Peter's was opened, then that of St. John Lateran, then St. Mary Major - on New Year's, and on January 19 the Door of the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. This last event, given its ecumenical character, has remained impressed in my memory in a special way.

2. As the Jubilee Year progressed, day by day the 20th century closes behind us and the 21st century opens. According to the plans of Divine Providence I was allowed to live in the difficult century that is retreating into the past, and now, in the year in which my life reaches 80 years ('octogesima adveniens'), it is time to ask oneself if it is not the time to repeat with the biblical Simeone 'nunc dimittis'.

On May 13, 1981, the day of the attack on the Pope during the general audience in St. Peter's Square, Divine Providence saved me in a miraculous way from death. The One Who is the Only Lord of life and death Himself prolonged my life, in a certain way He gave it to me again. From that moment it belonged to Him even more. I hope He will help me to recognize up to what point I must continue this service to which I was called on October 16, 1978. I ask him to call me back when He Himself wishes. 'In life and in death we belong to the Lord ... we are the Lord's. (cf. Rm 14,8). I also hope that, as long as I am called to fulfil the Petrine service in the Church, the Mercy of God will give me the necessary strength for this service.

3. As I do every year during spiritual exercises I read my testament from 6-III-1979. I continue to maintain the dispositions contained in this text. What then, and even during successive spiritual exercises, has been added constitutes a reflection of the difficult and tense general situation which marked the Eighties. From autumn of the year 1989 this situation changed. The last decade of the century was free of the previous tensions; that does not mean that it did not bring with it new problems and difficulties. In a special way may Divine Providence be praised for this, that the period of the so-called 'cold war' ended without violent nuclear conflict, the danger of which weighed on the world in the preceding period.

4. Being on the threshold of the third millennium "in medio Ecclesiae" I wish once again to express gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of Vatican Council II, to which, together with the entire Church - and above all the entire episcopacy - I feel indebted. I am convinced that for a long time to come the new generations will draw upon the riches that this Council of the 20th century gave us. As a bishop who participated in this conciliar event from the first to the last day, I wish to entrust this great patrimony to all those who are and who will be called in the future to realize it. For my part I thank the eternal Pastor Who allowed me to serve this very great cause during the course of all the years of my pontificate.

"In medio Ecclesiae".... from the first years of my service as a bishop - precisely thanks to the Council - I was able to experience the fraternal communion of the Episcopacy. As a priest of the archdiocese of Krakow I experienced the fraternal communion among priests - and the Council opened a new dimension to this experience.

5. How many people should I list! Probably the Lord God has called to Himself the majority of them - as to those who are still on this side, may the words of this testament recall them, everyone and everywhere, wherever they are.

During the more than 20 years that I am fulfilling the Petrine service "in medio Ecclesiae" I have experienced the benevolence and even more the fecund collaboration of so many cardinals, archbishops and bishops, so many priests, so many consecrated persons - brothers and sisters - and, lastly, so very, very many lay persons, within the Curia, in the vicariate of the diocese of Rome, as well as outside these milieux.

How can I not embrace with grateful memory all the bishops of the world whom I have met  in "ad limina Apostolorum" visits! How can I not recall so many non-Catholic Christian brothers! And the rabbi of Rome and so many representatives of non -Christian religions! And how many representatives of the world of culture, science, politics, and of the means of social communication!

6. As the end of my life approaches I return with my memory to the beginning, to my parents, to my brother, to the sister (I never knew because she died before my birth), to the parish in Wadowice, where I was baptized, to that city I love, to my peers, friends from elementary school, high school and the university, up to the time of the occupation when I was a worker, and then in the parish of Niegowic,  then St. Florian's in Krakow, to the pastoral ministry of academics, to the milieu of....to all milieux....to Krakow and to Rome....to the people who were entrusted to me in a special way by the Lord.

To all I want to say just one thing: "May God reward you."
"In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum."

A.D.

17.III.2000

.../JOHN PAUL II:TESTAMENT/...   

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Vatican reopens lines to see pope

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - Trying to accommodate as many pilgrims who want to see the body of Pope John Paul II as possible, the Vatican has decided to reopen lines into St. Peter’s Basilica prior to the pope’s Friday funeral.

The Vatican closed the lines on Wednesday evening to make preparations for the funeral and clean the Basilica overnight, but decided to reopen them this morning.

Some had waited 24-hours to see the pope’s body on Wednesday, but Vatican officials say that today, the line is moving a little quicker.

Pilgrims from John Paul’s native Poland have been out in force, sprinkling the line, which has been over a kilometer long at times, with waving Polish flags.

The line will be cut off again at 10p.m., Thursday night to make last-minute preparations for the funeral.

Some 200 heads of state from over 100 countries are said to be descending on Rome for the funeral, which some speculate may be the largest in history.

Yesterday, the 116 cardinals who will elect the new pontiff announced that the official conclave would commence on April 18th.

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Three U.S. presidents honor Pope John Paul II

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - Among the millions waiting to see the body of John Paul II lying in state at St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday were three U.S. presidents.

The five-member delegation from the United States included current president George W. Bush, his father George Bush Sr., and former President Bill Clinton. First Lady, Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accompanied them.

Upon the delegation’s arrival in Rome, they were taken directly to St. Peter’s Basilica, where they venerated the body of the pope for about five minutes. All three kneeled before the Holy Father’s body.

The group will join a massive assembly of world leaders for John Paul’s funeral Friday. President Bush will be the first-ever sitting American president to attend the funeral of a pope.

Some 200 heads of state are said to be descending on Rome for the funeral—a testimony, many say, to the far-reaching influence of the Holy Father, who died Saturday.

John Paul is thought to have been seen in person by more people than any other human being in history.

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Rome prepares for unprecedented crowds

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2005 (CNA) - The prefect of the city of Rome announced Thursday that the day of the Funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II will be an unforgettable one, with more than four million people expected to be in attendance.

“The city will see an invasion of pilgrims never seen before—more than four million people will overwhelm the city’s population,” said Prefect Achille Serra, who announced the emergency preparations the city is making to manage the largest crowd ever seen in the Eternal City.

The Pope’s body will continue to lie in state until 10pm, Rome time, but authorities closed off the line yesterday as it had stretched to three miles and it became impossible for anyone else to see the Pope before Thursday night.

On Friday all public offices and schools will be closed.  The city will deploy more than 6,500 police officers and starting at 2am, the streets of Rome will become almost impassable.

In order to accommodate all the pilgrims, St. Peter’s Square will open at 3:30am.

Because of the large crowds expected to swell to four million, city officials have set up six gigantic TV screens along the avenue leading up to St. Peter’s, as well as TV screens at other key places, including Rome’s Olympic Stadium, St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Coliseum and Tor Vergata, where World Youth Day 2000 was held.

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