Pope John Paul the First was carried on an open bier from the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City to St.
Pope John Paul the First was carried on an open bier from the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City to St. Peter's Basilica to lie in state on Saturday (30 September). An estimated 250,000 mourners had filed past his body by late in the afternoon. The 65-year-old Pontiff died of a heart attack on Thursday, (28 September) after a 33 day reign.
SYNOPSIS: About 60,000 people cheered and clapped as the Pope's body was carried by twelve black-clad pall-bearers into St. Peter's Square in a procession of Cardinals and Bishops holding lighted candles. The Pope was wearing a red robe, with a white mitre on his head and lay on a crimson velvet pall. He will be buried in St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday (4 October) and the conclave to elect his successor will begin on the 14th of October. Cardinals are arriving daily to attend the funeral and to start the secret conclave in the Sistine Chapel. They are said to be still reeling from the shock of the death of two Pops's within eight weeks.
The Pope's body was placed on a catafalque under the high altar as the Sistine choir chanted Latin hymns for his repose, after a procession up the main aisle.
On Sunday (1 October), queues stretched further than people could remember for the lying-in-state of John Paul's predecessors -- as people waited in the rain to file past the body. In his short reign the Pope had become as a man of modesty and humour and had won the affection of millions of Roman Catholics. He had never worked in the central church government and did away with the traditional papal coronation. He set his public appearances alive with a unique blend of spontaneity and simple teaching.
Messages of condolence continue to pour in and many foreign dignitaries are expected to start arriving at the Vatican for Wednesday's funeral.
There is some controversy surrounding the Vatican's failure to order an autopsy on the late Pope. The Vatican has explained there was no autopsy because the 1975 constitution for the papal succession did not provide for one. Two respected Italian newspaper have asserted that a port mortem examination should have been carried out, despite the fact that there are no serious reasons for suspecting the death may not have been natural causes.