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Pope's Funeral, Burial to Take Place Friday at Vatican

  • Roger Wilkison

The Vatican has announced that the funeral for Pope John Paul II will be held on Friday, and that the late pontiff will be buried immediately after the service in the papal crypt at Saint Peter's Basilica.

The decision was made by Roman Catholic cardinals, who convened for the first time since John Paul's death to discuss the funeral rites and place of burial.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls told reporters the funeral service will be held Friday morning at Saint Peter's Basilica.

He says the service will be conducted by the cardinals and the patriarchs of Eastern rite Catholic churches, and will be presided over by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger, of Germany. At the end of the funeral, Dr. Navarro says, the late pope will be buried under the basilica, as is customary.

Officials in Krakow, Poland, where John Paul served as archbishop, had hoped that his heart, at least, could be buried in their city's cathedral, alongside the tombs of Poland's medieval kings. But Dr. Navarro says John Paul left no last will or testament, and that the tradition of burying the pope at Saint Peter's will be followed.

Late Monday afternoon, the late pope's body, decked out in crimson and white vestments, will be transferred from the Vatican's Apostolic Palace to Saint Peter's Basilica for public viewing by the faithful. Hundreds-of-thousands of people are expected to file past John Paul's body over the next three days to pay their respects. For the past two days, the body has been laid out for private viewing by church officials, the diplomatic corps, Vatican employees and dignitaries.

Police in Rome say they are bracing for the arrival of up to two million people, including more than 100 world leaders, for the late pope's funeral. Italian authorities have laid on extra trains and fresh water supplies, and are beginning to erect hundreds of tents to handle the expected influx of visitors.

After the funeral, the main task for the cardinals, or princes of the church, as they are often called, will be to choose a successor to John Paul. Under Vatican law, that crucial closed-door meeting, or conclave, is supposed to begin between April 17 and April 22.

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