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Quiet on the eve of Pope's funeral

The city of Rome is calm on Thursday night local time - Friday morning in Australia - the eve of the funeral for Pope John Paul II, with officials are bracing for unprecedented crowds.

Catholic World News reports that on Wednesday evening local time, police closed off access to the long line of mourners waiting to view the deceased Pope's body in St. Peter's Basilica. Some people have managed to insert themselves into the line, but the crush of people approaching the Vatican has eased considerably.

It is possible to view the darkened St Peter's Square on Vatican TV's webcast.

Late on Thursday afternoon (overnight in Sydney), there were still about 150,000 people in the line-- a mere fraction of the number from the previous day. The public viewing of the Pope's remains will continue until the early hours of Friday, when preparations will begin for the funeral.

The line of mourners now includes many people carrying Polish flags: representatives of a veritable army of Polish Catholics who have arrived in Rome to honor their native son. By Friday morning, officials expect one million or more Poles to have arrived: by plane, bus, train, and private cars.

Police are broadcasting public-service messages constantly in hopes of easing traffic congestion. Italian cell-phone carriers are also sending out text messages, reminding customers of both the severe restrictions that have been imposed on vehicular traffic around the city on Friday, and the new efforts made by authorities to accommodate pilgrims.

On Thursday morning, the perimeter of the Vatican was cordoned off, and access severely restricted. Many pilgrims have made themselves as comfortable as possible on the sidewalks of nearby streets, or around the Castel Sant'Angelo a few blocks away, waiting for authorities to open St. Peter's Square early on Friday morning. Many thousands of people are still pouring into the city-- their arrival delayed by brutal traffic snarls and delays in train schedules. Since they are being strongly advised not to approach the Vatican immediately upon their arrival, they are settling into quarters in other parts of the city. No one knows how many of these people will join the enormous crowds for the funeral.

City officials are reluctant to estimate the size of the crowd for the funeral, Catholic World News suggests the number will exceed 2 million, and the highest estimates range upward to 5 million-- approaching the size of the crowdd that gathered around Pope John Paul II for World Youth Day in Manila, probably the largest crowd in world history.

Quiet on the eve: Rome braces for Pope's funeral (Catholic World News 7/4/05)
Bookings soar for WYD following Pope's death ( 7/4/05)
Archbishop and others call for sainthood for John Paul II ( 7/4/05)
Faithful turned away as tears turn to anger (Daily Telegraph 8/4/05)
A mass of humanity (Daily Telegraph 8/4/05)
Bush kneels before Pope's body (Agence France-Presse/Daily Telegraph 7/4/05)
G-G arrives in Rome for funeral (Daily Telegraph 8/4/05)
World Leaders Begin to Arrive for Pope's Funeral (The Scotsman 7/4/05)
Security Tightened as Patient Pilgrims View Pope (Reuters 6/4/05)
Pope-Related DVD Titles Surge After Pontiff's Death (Reuters 7/4/05)
Millions gather for Pope's funeral (ABC TV 7:30 Report 7/4/05)
Pilgrims flock to Rome for Pope's funeral (ABC Radio AM 7/4/05)
Rome flooded with pilgrims who want to pray before the body of the Pope ( 7/4/05)
Singing the praises of a Pope who loves China ( 7/4/05)
Asia united in St Peter's to say goodbye to the Pope ( 7/4/05)
Prayer for John Paul II at the national seminary in Beijing ( 7/4/05)
Finnish 'King' dedicates new single to the Pope (National Post 7/4/05)
Why the body of the pope was laid out in red vestments (Catholic News Service 6/4/05)
China says it won't send delegation to pope's funeral (Catholic News Service 7/4/05)
Polish intellectual highlights Pope's profound respect for women, maternity and celibacy (Catholic News Agency 7/4/05)
Pope never wavered or lost hope: Tony Blair (Catholic News Agency 7/4/05)
Rome 'invasion' opens old wounds (The Courier Mail 8/4/05)
President Bush leads US delegation to funeral (Catholic World News 7/4/05)
9 daily Masses set at Vatican for Pope John Paul (Catholic World News 7/4/05)
Beijing snubs papal funeral, despite Pope's regrets on not visiting China (Ecumenical News International 7/4/05)
Mugabe Defies EU to Attend Pope's Funeral (The Guardian/Associated Press 7/4/05)
Viewing of Pope's Body Resumes at Vatican (The Guardian/Associated Press 7/4/05)
Pope funeral live on TV ( Associated Press 7/4/05)
Masses want Saint John Paul ( 6/4/05)
Rome in security clampdown (Agence France-Presse/ 7/4/05)
Pope interred under simple slab (The Australian 8/4/05)
Homage to Pope Continues as Officials Try to Manage Crowd (New York Times 7/4/05)
Taiwan president leaves for pope's funeral, China announces boycott (Agence France-Presse/Political Gateway 7/4/05)
Millions of faithful refuse to toe China's official line (Sydney Morning Herald 8/4/05)
Rome under security blanket (Agence France-Presse/Sydney Morning Herald 8/4/05)
Burial the last stage of an intricate ritual (Sydney Morning Herald 8/4/05)
Farewell to the Pope elaborate yet simple (Sydney Morning Herald 8/4/05)
John Paul to be interred under simple marble slab (Agence France-Presse/Sydney Morning Herald 8/4/05)
Crooning down the freeway with Cardinal Wojtyla (The Tidings 8/4/05)
Peace-loving Pope's farewell a terror target (The Age 8/4/05)
The mighty join millions to farewell John Paul (The Age 8/4/05)
Pilgrims' progress (The Australian 8/4/05)
'Shameless' Mugabe defies travel ban (The Australian 8/4/05)
A million Poles on way to Rome (The Australian 8/4/05)
Vatican tries to stem flow of faithful (The Australian 8/4/05)
Visible from space, 1.2m mourners wait (The Australian 8/4/05)
World leaders kneel in homage (The Australian 8/4/05)
Final farewell from faithful (The Courier Mail 8/4/05)
Papal journeys carry a reporter to a new faith (USA Today 6/4/05)
Vatican TV
Pope Gave Us Confidence, Says Moscow Prelate (Zenit 6/4/05 - temporary url)

8 Apr 2005