Pope Benedict marks one month anniversary of JPII death

Pope Benedict XVI has observed the passing of one month since the death of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, by celebrating Mass in his private chapel yesterday.

Later yesterday, Benedict planned to pray at John Paul's tomb in the grottoes beneath St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican said.

Associated Press reported that the area around the tomb would be closed off to the public so that Benedict could pay his respects in private.

John Paul died on 2 April (Rome time) at the age of 84. Mourners continued to stream past John Paul's grave - near the traditional gravesite of the apostle Peter, the church's first pope - when it was opened to the public shortly after the funeral on 8 April.

The pope also received a group of Sri Lankan bishops on Monday, his first audience with visiting bishops since his election on 19 April.

The crowd on St. Peter's Square on Sunday was one of the largest crowds to turn out for the custom begun by John Paul.

Benedict used his appearance Sunday to denounce wars around the world, pay tribute to the world's workers on May Day and express hope that efforts toward Christian unity would continue. To that end, he wished happy Easter to the world's Orthodox Christians.

Looking vigorous and confident, Benedict sang a Latin prayer in a voice so strong it boomed across the from the third-floor window of the Apostolic Palace. It was a sharp contrast to John Paul II's final agonizing appearance at the window, when he struggled in vain to speak.

"I address you, my very dear brothers and sisters, for the first time from this window that the beloved figure of my predecessor made familiar to countless people in the entire world," Benedict said.

Cheers from the crowd frequently punctuated his remarks and Benedict pointed heavenward at one moment when speaking of his predecessor.

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3 May 2005