The body of Pope John Paul the Second has been transferred from the Vatican's Apostolic Palace to Saint Peter's Basilica for viewing by the Roman Catholic faithful until the late pontiff's funeral on Friday. At least 100,000 people have gathered in Saint Peter's Square and on the wide boulevard leading to it in hopes of being among the first to get a final close-up glimpse of John Paul.
The pope's body, borne on a crimson platform by 12 Vatican ushers flanked by Swiss Guards in their yellow and blue uniforms and red-plumed helmets, made its way slowly through the frescoed hallways and down the marble staircases of the Apostolic Palace and out into Saint Peter's Square.
Tens of thousands of people packed the square to see the procession, and those who were not able to get close enough to the pope, could see the ceremony on giant television screens.
In the background, the ritual chant calling for all the Roman Catholic Church's saints to pray for the dead resounded through loudspeakers in the square.
Red-hatted cardinals, bishops in their purple and white vestments and priests in black and white took part in the procession.
The late pope's body is now laid out directly below Saint Peter's main altar and will remain on public display until his funeral and subsequent burial on Friday.
Officials in Krakow, Poland, where John Paul served as archbishop, were hoping that his heart, at least, would be buried in their city's cathedral alongside Poland's medieval kings. But Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro told reporters that John Paul left no funeral or burial instructions and will thus be interred in the papal crypt below the basilica, as is customary when a pope dies.
Rome police say they expect up to two million pilgrims and other travelers to flock to the city over the next few days for the pope's funeral. Adding to the logistical nightmare of absorbing such a huge number of visitors, the city also has to lay on strict security measures for the more than 100 world leaders, including President Bush, who will be attending the funeral.