.- 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.