.- Early this morning, the Vatican reopened the grottoes beneath St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time since the death of Pope John Paul II.
Thousands of pilgrims lined up as early as 4 a.m. to enter the grottoes and pay their respects at the pope’s simple white, marble tomb.
Last night, before the tomb was opened to the public, many of the cardinals who will enter the conclave to elect John Paul’s successor on Monday, spent time in prayer before the grave.
Many faithful came bearing rosaries, holy medals and flowers, which ushers touched to the tomb for them.
The tomb itself sits in an alcove to the side of the main altar of the central nave, just a short distance from the tomb of St. Peter—the Church’s first pope.
A slab of white marble marks the Holy Father’s resting place marked with IONNES PAULUS PPII, and the dates of his 26-year long pontificate written in Roman numerals: 16 X, 1978-2 IV, 2005.
Behind the tomb are a lily and a red candle which burns beneath a painting of the Virgin Mary.