Requires PowerPoint
Click here for viewer





The greatest farewell in history

About a thousand current and former leaders from 100 nations and up to five million pilgrims packed Rome to pay homage to John Paul II, while an estimated 2 billion more watched the event on televisions across the globe.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that to the sound of St Peter's bells and the applause of thousands of pilgrims, the Pope made his final journey into St Peter's Square, carried by 12 pallbearers in a simple wooden coffin, plainly adorned with a cross and the letter M for Mary.

He was placed on the steps before the altar, with a red-covered copy of the gospels laid open on top of his coffin.

The choir started the service with the Gregorian chant "Grant him eternal rest, O Lord, and shine your light on him forever". They were followed by one the Pope's closest associates, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who presided at the Mass.

The crowd interrupted the cardinal with frequent applause as he spoke of the Pope's vitality, intellect and love for sport and the young. His homily described John Paul's early life as a young worker in a Polish chemical factory who "survived the Nazi terror" and "heard the voice of the Lord, saying 'Follow me' ".

But it was his words on the Pope's last years that stirred the most emotion. He talked of the Pope's public suffering and described his desperate efforts to greet the crowds gathered below his window in his final days.

"He is now at the window of the house of his Father and he sees us and he blesses us." Cardinal Ratzinger said the whole church felt "hope and gratitude" for the pontificate of John Paul II. He saluted the worshippers, "especially young people, who John Paul liked to describe as the hope and future of the church".

At the end of the service, the bells rang out and the Pope was carried into St Peter's and sealed in the crypt below, almost directly above the tomb of St Peter, according to the Vatican.

The greatest farewell in history (Sydney Morning Herald 9/4/05)
Simple grave for John Paul (The Age 9/4/05)
Pope gave witness of 'suffering and silence,' Cardinal Ratzinger says (Catholic News Service 8/4/05)
Diplomatic coup: Pope's funeral brings together bitter adversaries (Catholic News Service 8/4/05)

11 Apr 2005