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Vatican announces Pope burial plans

As cardinals planned the funeral for Pope John Paul II, an unceasing line of mourners filed past his body yesterday as it lay in state in St Peter's Basilica.

CNN reports that tens of thousands of pilgrims, most from Italy, stood in line for as long as eight hours. But Rome is filling quickly with mourners from beyond Italy, said the city's deputy mayor, Luca Odevaine.

Vatican officials have said they plan to bury the pope in the grotto beneath St. Peter's Basilica in the former grave of Pope John XXIII.

Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pope would be buried there "unless he left other instructions in the will. ... But we don't know because we haven't read the will yet."

Navarro-Valls said the body had been "prepared for burial" but was not embalmed.

An estimated 70,000 people were waiting in the square outside St. Peter's when the doors opened for public viewing about 8 p.m. Monday local time. When the basilica closed at 3 a.m. Tuesday for scheduled cleaning, those in line sat down and waited for it to reopen. Medics handed out blankets and water, and the basilica reopened at 4:40 a.m., a few minutes ahead of the scheduled time of 5 a.m. It will remain open for 22 hours a day until the pope's funeral. Between 15,000 and 18,000 people an hour are filing past the pope's body.

Italian authorities said they expect some 2 million people to file through the Vatican and the surrounding streets of Rome in the coming days. The body will lie in state until the funeral at 10 a.m. local time Friday (6:00 pm in Eastern Australia).

In Australia, SBS Television has announced that it will interrupt normal programs to present a live telecast of the Mass.

Governor-General Michael Jeffery will represent Australia at the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome. Prime Minister John Howard has said he will not attend because it clashes with the visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. More than 200 world leaders are expected to attend. Those who have confirmed their attendance include the presidents of the United States and France, George W Bush and Jacques Chirac, and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Turkish authorities have rejected a request from Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who shot and gravely wounded Pope John Paul in 1981, to leave prison to attend the pontiff's funeral, his lawyer said. The Pope forgave his would-be killer two years after the shooting that would mark the start of his slow decline in health.

Catholic News Service reports that the funeral rites for Pope John Paul II and for all popes - from the formal verification of the pope's death to the memorial Masses held on the nine days following the funeral - have been published in the "Ordo Exsequiarum Romani Pontificis" ("Funeral Rites of the Roman Pontiff"). The red-bound book was released on Monday, although the text had been approved by Pope John Paul in 1998, according to a note issued by Archbishop Piero Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies.

Vatican announces burial plans (CNN 5/4/05)
Pope's funeral rites are celebrations of faith, hope (Catholic News Service 4/4/05)
Pope not yet embalmed: Vatican (Sydney Morning Herald 6/4/05)
Howard too busy for funeral (Herald-Sun 6/4/05)
G-G to attend Pope's funeral (ABC/Optus 5/4/05)
Pope funeral live on SBS ( 5/4/05)
Pope's attacker barred from funeral (The Courier Mail 6/4/05)
Poles want Pope's heart sent home (ABC News 5/4/05)
Rome braces for 2 million guests (Catholic World News 5/4/05)

6 Apr 2005