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Requiem for 'the Great'

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, April 4, 2005; Page A01

VATICAN CITY, April 3 -- Pope John Paul II, who in life attracted millions of worshipers and admirers to gatherings around the world, in death received an immense homage Sunday from close to 150,000 pilgrims who gathered for an open-air Requiem in St. Peter's Square.

As soon as Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who presided at the Mass, mentioned the late pope's name, the sea of worshipers applauded loudly. In his written homily, Sodano referred to John Paul as "the Great," an honorific applied only to two of the church's 263 previous pontiffs. "He died with the serenity of the saints," Sodano, who had been the pontiff's secretary of state, told the crowd.

Inside a marble-covered hall, John Paul's body lay in state for viewing by cardinals and dignitaries. The ceremony was broadcast to the outside world for the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

The dual events provided an indication of what is fast becoming a mammoth pageant of grief and adulation, arguably without parallel in the church. Rome is preparing to host 2 million or more pilgrims for John Paul's funeral. Train stations and stadiums are being opened for campers. Hotels in the city are already reporting full occupancy. The pope's body will lie in state at St. Peter's Basilica for viewing by the public beginning Monday afternoon.

The personality of the next pontiff was a topic of growing discussion among cardinals who will convene within the next 19 days to choose John Paul's successor. Some of them said that someone like John Paul was needed.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, described an ideal pope to French Inter radio: "When you see his face, and when you hear him speak, you should have the impression like that made by the arrival of John Paul II in October 1978 -- wow, here you can see Christ come among us," he said.

Cardinal Wilfred Napier of South Africa told the Associated Press that "my own view is that we need someone who has vision and can look into the future, like John Paul did."

"There's a big void," Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles told reporters outside St. Peter's Basilica.

In any event, a new dialogue was clearly underway. "It's legitimate to talk among ourselves now in a way it was not while John Paul was alive," said Cardinal James Stafford, an American who works in the Vatican.

In St. Peter's Square on Sunday, ardent Catholics mixed with religiously indifferent tourists. Italians mingled with migrant workers who waved flags of their home countries: India, Colombia, Albania, Romania and, in several parts of the square, Poland. Well-off worshipers wearing gold earrings prayed beside maids manipulating plastic rosaries.

Many mourners clutched pictures of John Paul. All seemed eager to praise him and see him bestowed with what is effectively Catholicism's highest honor: "The least they can do is make him a saint," said Antonella Rado, who drove to Rome overnight from southeastern Italy. "He will always be among us."

"He is a saint," embarked Roberto Baldi, a Rome policeman. "He brought people close to him, no matter who they were."

The morning after John Paul died in his Vatican apartment at age 84, officials issued the precise cause of death: septic shock, a medical term for a severe infection that causes organ failure, and collapse of the cardiovascular system.

Among the underlying causes for his swift decline was Parkinson's disease, the statement said. It was the first time the Vatican has acknowledged that the pope suffered from the disease that outside physicians estimate began to afflict him about 15 years ago

The pope also suffered acute breathing failure, low blood pressure, insufficient blood flow and an enlarged prostate gland. The death certificate said the urinary tract infection that poisoned his blood was a complication of the prostate problem.

The statement said that the Vatican's chamberlain, or camerlengo, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, confirmed the pope's death, as required by church regulations. Martinez Somalo is the interim spiritual leader of the church, though he lacks governing authority.

In past eras, the chamberlain is said to have authenticated a pope's death by tapping his forehead three times with a silver hammer and calling out his given name. On Saturday, confirmation was by means of 20 minutes of monitoring with a special electrocardiograph.

The pope's body lay atop a bier Sunday in Clementine Hall, a reception room down the hall from the apartment where he died. John Paul was attired in red vestments. A white miter was set on his head, which rested on three golden damask pillows. The pope's familiar long silver pastoral staff was tucked under his left arm. Folded hands held a wooden rosary.

His face showed traces of a death agony. His cheeks were drawn, with deep creases.

Swiss Guards dressed in 16th-century orange-and-blue uniforms flanked the bier. Cardinals in white lace doffed scarlet skullcaps as they bowed and kneeled before the body.

Tears rimmed the eyes of Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the pope's private secretary and longtime friend. Dziwisz and other Polish clerics and nuns who made up John Paul's "household," as it was called, sat in pews to the pope's left.

Italian politicians, led by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, paid respects. Gregorian chants and prayers recited in Latin echoed through the room.

Somalo sprinkled the body with holy water. "We thank you, God, for the good things that you gave your church through him," he said. "O God of mercy, our Pope John Paul II received the light of faith while he lived on Earth. Now he is coming to you, his lamp lit."

In the square, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who was the pope's voice when he was unable to speak because of illness, delivered a prayer that Vatican officials said John Paul had been scheduled to deliver on this Sunday. "I do it with much honor and so much nostalgia," Sandri said before reading the prayer.

"To all humanity, which today seems so lost and dominated by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, our resurrected Lord gives us his love which forgives, reconciles and reopens the soul to hope," the message read.

Sodano, in his spoken remarks, did not describe John Paul as "the Great." The phrase was in the written text, however, and under Vatican rules, what is written is official. There was no explanation for the inconsistency.

The only other popes to be called "the Great" were Leo I, a 5th-century pontiff who warded off an attack on Rome by Attila the Hun, and Gregory I, who at the turn of the 7th century protected Rome against invading Lombards.

Sodano is already the subject of rumors of Vatican intrigue following a breach of protocol. Under church rules, the death should have been announced by the pope's assistant as bishop of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini. But Sodano told Sandri to announce the news in St. Peter's Square, Vatican officials said. Ruini heard it on television. Ruini released his announcement Sunday, in writing. "We thank God for giving us a pastor who with his life and word has taken with untiring courage the path on which Christ guides men," it said.

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