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Cardinals Gather to Plan Pope's Funeral

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The body of Pope John Paul II lay in state Sunday as an estimated 100,000 worshippers turned out for a morning mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. As the day progressed, thousands more faithful continued to pour into St. Peter’s Basilica to pay their respects.

Under a simple crucifix and protected by Swiss Guards in the Vatican’s frescoed Apostolic Palace, the pontiff, dressed in crimson vestments and a white bishop’s miter on his head, clutched a rosary and looked at peace.

The pope died Saturday evening in his Vatican bed after a lengthy illness, finally succumbing to septic shock and cardio-circulatory collapse. He was 84. “He died with the serenity of the saints,” Cardinal Angelo Sodano told a huge crowd assembled for a somber Requiem Mass.

Late Monday afternoon Rome time, his body was transferred to St. Peter’s Basilica for public viewing. Two million people are expected to come see the pope. Earlier in the day, cardinals gathered in the Apostolic Palace’s Bologna Hall to plan the pope’s funeral.

Also on Monday, it was announced that the pope’s funeral will take place Friday. More than 100 world leaders are expected to attend the ceremony, including President Bush.

In addition, the cardinals were expected to arrange the destruction of John Paul’s Fisherman’s Ring and the dies used to make lead seals for apostolic letters – formal gestures meant to symbolize the end of his reign and to prevent forgeries.

In terms of an interim administrative – but not spiritual – leader of the 1-billion-strong Roman Catholic Church, Spanish Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, 78, has assumed the duty, The New York Times reports.

Within 15 to 20 days following the death of the pope, the 117 cardinals under age 80 will convene in a secret meeting inside the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel to choose a successor. When they elect the next pope, white smoke will pour from the chapel’s chimney.