04/08/2005, 00.00
VATICAN
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A million people attend John Paul II's funeral

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Over a million people took part in Pope John Paul II's funeral held this morning in St Peter's Square in Rome. The service was conducted by Card Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, who delivered the homily. Some 160 cardinals and 200 world leaders were among those present.

In his homily, Card Ratzinger said that John Paul II's vocation was to "follow Christ", to give "give of himself unreservedly, to the very last moment".

For13 times he was interrupted by lengthy applause from the crowd made up mostly of faithful from Poland.

Those who could not be in St Peter's Square gathered by the tens of thousands at one of the seven meeting areas in the city of Rome where giant screens were set up to broadcast the event live.

Elsewhere, the faithful were able to follow the funeral service, in cities throughout Italy and in 90 other countries—such as Poland, India, Kazakhstan, Russia, and several Arab countries—from giant screens set up in open areas and in churches or in homes  linked by satellite TV.

The service began however with a private ceremony, away from the lenses of TV cameras, inside St Peter's Basilica. The Pope's face was covered with a white shroud and his body placed in a cypress wood coffin— the symbol of the Pontificate carved into its top.

Pallbearers carried the casket into the St Peter's Square and placed it on the ground before the altar; a book of the Gospels was opened and laid on top of the coffin.

At the end of the service Card Camillo Ruini, Vicar for the diocese of Rome, blessed the casket on behalf of the Western Church; Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches followed, litanies in the Byzantine tradition were chanted.

Card Ratzinger then blessed the coffin with holy water and incensed it before following last the procession that took the Pope's mortal remains into the grotto beneath the Vatican basilica.

Just before the threshold of the basilica, John Paul II's casket was shown to the faithful and the world for the last time. The crowd responded with an applause that lasted 15 minutes.

Now John Paul II, Karol Józef Wojtyła, lies in the grave once occupied by one his predecessors, John XXIII, in the bare earth as was his wish. Mingled with it, earth brought from his beloved Poland. (LF)

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