.- Pope John Paul II's funeral mass will be celebrated at St. Peterâs Square Friday at 10 a.m., Rome time, the Vatican has announced. His body will lie in state in St Peter's Basilica from Monday evening until Friday morning. The church will stay open late into the night, closing only between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. for maintenance.
In the next four days, an estimated two million pilgrims are expected to pay their last respects to the third-longest reigning pontiff, who died April 2 at the age of 84.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the dean of the College of Cardinals, will preside at the open-air funeral mass. Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend.
John Paul II will be buried in the crypt beneath St Peter's Basilica immediately following the funeral, the Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.
The Pope had not stated any wishes about his burial place, and the Vatican would therefore "follow tradition" by burying him in the crypt, Navarro-Valls said.
The announcement came after 65 cardinals met for a two-and-a-half-hour meeting this morning the Apostolic Palace to read the Pope's will and fix the funeral date. The remaining 42 cardinals, who will attend the conclave and elect the 265th successor to the Chair of Peter, are still traveling to Rome.
Signs of the Church in mourning were everywhere in St. Peter's Square Monday morning. The Vatican's Swiss Guards, who normally wear brightly colored uniforms, wore black cloaks, and the lampposts were covered with flowers, handwritten messages and children's drawings.
The body of Pope John Paul II lay in state yesterday at the Apostolic Palace for Vatican officials and dignitaries to pay their last respects.