Funeral of Pope John Paul II takes place

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Friday, April 8, 2005

Pope John Paul II's coffin is carried out from the inside of St. Peter's Basilica.

The funeral of Pope John Paul II took place today in Vatican City, in front of St. Peter's Basilica. The Pope died on April 2 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease and several other health problems.

Over four million people went to Rome to attend the funeral. The number of people present was so large that it was not possible for everybody to gain access to the funeral in St. Peter's Square. Several large television screens were installed in various places in Rome to let the people watch the ceremony. In many other cities of Italy and in the rest of the world, particularly in Poland, similar setups were made, which were viewed by a great number of people.

A large number of high-ranking representatives of many countries, as well as many representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and of several other Churches, were present at the ceremony. Among these were U.S. President George W. Bush, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, and French President Jacques Chirac.

A young John Paul II.

The high number of people present in Rome and the presence of many important heads of state caused serious logistical and security problems for the Italian Government.

Speculation has already emerged that the late Pope may soon be made a saint; he has been referred to as "The Great," a title only bestowed on three of his 263 predecessors - and on none since the ninth century; many pilgrims in the crowd chanted "Santo! Santo!," expressing their desire for him to be elevated to this stature. Some pilgrims held banners reading Santo Subito, meaning "Sainthood Now."

Following the funeral, the body of the Pope was laid to rest beneath St. Peter's Basilica in a private ceremony. Buried with him was a bag of commemorative medals and a scroll with an account of his life.

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