.- Pope John Paul II, shepherd of the Catholic Church for 26 years, was laid to rest this morning in the presence of presidents, kings, church leaders from all denominations, and faithful from around the globe. The funeral Mass is already being called one of the largest religious events in human history, as millions who were not able to be in Rome watched the solemn event from their televisions.
The polish-born pope, who died Saturday at the Vatican was laid in a simple, Cypress casket emblazoned with an âMâ underneath a cross representing his beloved Virgin Mary standing beneath Jesusâ cross.
Winds blew strongly and the gathered crowds applauded as the coffin was laid on a carpet in front of the altar, and the book of the Gospel placed on top.
The two and a half hour Mass was presided at by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, who said that, âWe 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.â
In his homily, the Cardinal Ratzinger followed the life of Karol Wojtyla from a young boy in Krakow, to an actor, a playwright, a factory worker and underground seminarian during the horrors of the Nazi occupation, to his God-given appointment to bishop and then pope.
The cardinal illuminated all of these roles in the light of Jesusâ words to Peter, âfollow me.â
âThe love of Christâ, he said, âwas the dominant force in the life of our beloved Holy Father. Anyone who ever saw him pray, who ever heard him preach, knows that. Thanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a burden, which transcends merely human abilities: that of being the shepherd of Christâs flock, his universal Church.â
Along with Cardinal Ritzinger, 164 other cardinals concelebrated the Mass.
Some 300,000 were present in St. Peters Square, including some 200 world-dignitaries, flooding the surrounding streets, while millions of others watched the proceedings from 27 massive T.V. screens placed throughout Rome.
Following the Mass, John Paulâs casket was taken in procession to a crypt beneath St. Peterâs Basilica where the pope had requested to be buried âsurrounded by bare earth.â
Voices rang out the words of Mary in the Magnifacat hymn and many chanted âSanto, Santoâ calling for John Paulâs much anticipated canonization.