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In Vatican City

Unbroken Flow of Faithful Pay Respects

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, April 6, 2005; Page A12

VATICAN CITY, April 5 -- The number of mourners and curiosity seekers who viewed Pope John Paul II's body at St. Peter's Basilica grew to about a million Tuesday as the city of Rome braced for an influx of pilgrims from abroad for Friday's funeral.

City workers put up a tent city on Rome's outskirts, and thousands of police officers were dispatched to the streets to keep order. Traffic patterns on some of Rome's busiest avenues and bridges were altered to make way for buses and pedestrians streaming to St. Peter's Square.

(Alessandro Bianchi -- Reuters)

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On Monday, the first day the public was allowed to view the pope's body, 400,000 people visited St. Peter's Basilica. An additional 600,000 came on Tuesday, police said. The possibility that 2 million pilgrims might arrive from Poland alone had city officials wondering how to cope.

"We'll have millions of people, but we do not know how many," Mayor Walter Veltroni said as he inspected the tent city, which was being equipped with cots and portable toilets. "We have to organize the city in as flexible a way as possible."

The unbroken flow of visitors toward the basilica was orderly. Volunteers handed out free water, and a few in the crowd who fainted were carried off on stretchers by first-aid workers. At St. Peter's Square, some visitors had waited all night to get in. After the basilica was closed at 3 a.m. for almost two hours of cleaning, the crowd, left standing in the chilly air, chanted, "Open, open!"

President Bush will be among the world leaders attending the funeral, along with Laura Bush and former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The dignitaries also will include Presidents Mohammad Khatami of Iran and Bashar Assad of Syria, whose governments both appear on the U.S. State Department's list of countries that support terrorism.

The influx of world leaders is likely to eclipse the 105 foreign delegations who attended the funeral of Pope Paul VI in 1978, Rome city officials said. "It will be unprecedented," Veltroni said.

Such funerals are steeped in tradition, and the Vatican's head of liturgical ceremonies, Archbishop Piero Marini, outlined some details of the preparations. John Paul will be placed in three coffins, one of cypress within one of zinc within a third of walnut. Medallions with the dates of his reign will be placed inside; previously, bronze and silver coins were put in. A written biography will be read and rolled into a metal container for burial with the pope. His face will be covered by a white veil.

Although Vatican officials have yet to read a will left by John Paul, his spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said the pope had expressed no desire to be buried anywhere but inside St. Peter's. He will be placed in an underground tomb that until 2001 had held the body of Pope John XXIII, whose remains were moved upstairs after he was beatified, a step toward sainthood.

Navarro-Valls and Marini spoke at a news conference during which they provided few details of the second preliminary meeting among cardinals who are in Rome to attend the funeral and select a new pope. No date was set for the conclave at which the election will take place, but under Vatican rules, it must begin 15 to 20 days after the pope's death, in this case as early as April 17 but not after April 22.

The officials did describe a new wrinkle in the 100-year-old process of announcing that a new pope has been selected. This time, the traditional signal of white smoke sent up a Vatican chimney, created with the burning of ballots in a stove, will be joined by the ringing of St. Peter's bells.

The addition was prompted by the confusion that occurred during John Paul's selection in 1978. Several times, observers had trouble distinguishing whether the smoke was black, meaning another vote was needed, or white. "The stove ritual will remain the same, but we will try to make it work better than last time," Marini said. "The bells will also peal out joyfully so journalists don't have any doubt."

Enforced secrecy shrouds not only the conclave but the deliberations leading up to it. In the past, that meant cardinals were locked inside the Apostolic Palace, the huge building off St. Peter's Square that also contains the pope's residence. But in an innovation, cardinals will be allowed to move around specified areas of the Vatican and even to stroll in its gardens.

"This time it's a looser lockup," Marini said. "Before, cardinals were shut inside, the windows were sealed, they shared bathrooms, five or six in one. In some ways it was easier, as they were all corralled in to make a decision, but there were many difficulties -- the poor men couldn't get out."

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