VATICAN CITY, April 3 -- Pope John Paul II, who in life attracted millions of worshipers and admirers to gatherings around the world, in death received an immense homage Sunday from close to 150,000 pilgrims who gathered for an open-air Requiem in St. Peter's Square.
As soon as Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who presided at the Mass, mentioned the late pope's name, the sea of worshipers applauded loudly. In his written homily, Sodano referred to John Paul as "the Great," an honorific applied only to two of the church's 263 previous pontiffs. "He died with the serenity of the saints," Sodano, who had been the pontiff's secretary of state, told the crowd.
Cardinals pray over the body of Pope John Paul II, lying in state in the Vatican's Clementine Hall. Public viewing will begin this afternoon at St. Peter's Basilica. The pope died Saturday night at age 84.
(Italian Presidency Photo Enrico Oliverio Via AP)
Inside a marble-covered hall, John Paul's body lay in state for viewing by cardinals and dignitaries. The ceremony was broadcast to the outside world for the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
The dual events provided an indication of what is fast becoming a mammoth pageant of grief and adulation, arguably without parallel in the church. Rome is preparing to host 2 million or more pilgrims for John Paul's yet unscheduled funeral. Train stations and stadiums are being opened for campers. Hotels in the city are already reporting full occupancy. The pope's body will lie in state at St. Peter's Basilica for viewing by the public beginning Monday afternoon.
The personality of the next pontiff was a topic of growing discussion among cardinals who will convene within the next 19 days to choose John Paul's successor. Some of them said that someone like John Paul was needed.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, described an ideal pope to French Inter radio: "When you see his face, and when you hear him speak, you should have the impression like that made by the arrival of John Paul II in October 1978 -- wow, here you can see Christ come among us," he said.
Cardinal Wilfred Napier of South Africa told the Associated Press that "my own view is that we need someone who has vision and can look into the future, like John Paul did."
"There's a big void," Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles told reporters outside St. Peter's Basilica.
In any event, a new dialogue was clearly underway. "It's legitimate to talk among ourselves now in a way it was not while John Paul was alive," said Cardinal James Stafford, an American who works in the Vatican.
In St. Peter's Square on Sunday, ardent Catholics mixed with religiously indifferent tourists. Italians mingled with migrant workers who waved flags of their home countries: India, Colombia, Albania, Romania and, in several parts of the square, Poland. Well-off worshipers wearing gold earrings prayed beside maids manipulating plastic rosaries.
Many mourners clutched pictures of John Paul. All seemed eager to praise him and see him bestowed with what is effectively Catholicism's highest honor: "The least they can do is make him a saint," said Antonella Rado, who drove to Rome overnight from southeastern Italy. "He will always be among us."
"He is a saint," embarked Roberto Baldi, a Rome policeman. "He brought people close to him, no matter who they were."
The morning after John Paul died in his Vatican apartment at age 84, officials issued the precise cause of death: septic shock, a medical term for a severe infection that causes organ failure, and collapse of the cardiovascular system.
Among the underlying causes for his swift decline was Parkinson's disease, the statement said. It was the first time the Vatican has acknowledged that the pope suffered from the disease that outside physicians estimate began to afflict him about 15 years ago