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Pope crowds grow as Rome faces paralysis

Rome faced a bottleneck yesterday as an ocean of pilgrims from around the world flowed into the city to pay their respects to Pope John Paul.

Undeterred by a wait of up to 15 hours, hundreds of thousands of faithful stood packed together in line to enter St. Peter's Basilica where the Pope's body lay on a simple bier near the crypt where he will be buried tomorrow.

"Sometimes I feel like I am dreaming, living in a totally unreal world," said Spanish Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo as he headed to the meeting.

The funeral will bring together nearly 200 world leaders, some of whom rarely if ever meet, a fitting tribute to a Pope who fought for world peace and unity.

Describing the scene, Catholic News Service said the queue "seemed endless, and so did the outpouring of affection for Pope John Paul II".

"All day and all night they came to St. Peter's Basilica to say goodbye to the late pope, whose body lay on a damask-covered bier in front of the main altar," the report said. "No one remembered seeing this big a crowd at the Vatican, and it just kept growing, hour by hour and day by day."

Traffic in Rome has had to be rerouted, the subway lines were packed even tighter than usual, and the portable toilets filled quickly.

While some media outlets said people were waiting in line for 24 hours, Catholic News Service said on Tuesday that on average, people were spending between three and four hours.

Cardinals, and other dignitaries including US President George Bush, arriving in Rome went to the head of the line and were allowed to kneel at length before the pope.

Pope crowds grow, Rome faces paralysis (National Nine News/Reuters 6/4/05)
Endless line, boundless affection for Pope John Paul II (Catholic News Service 5/4/05)
Pope to be buried under ground (UPI/Big News Network 6/4/05)
Rome accomodates influx of people for Pope's funeral (ABC Radio AM 6/4/05)

7 Apr 2005