After an initial estimate of 2 million mourners, an unprecedented 4 million pilgrims are now expected to pay their final respects to Pope John Paul II, where the waiting line to view the body of the pontiff has reached 10 hours.
All day Monday and into Tuesday, mourners streamed past his crimson-robed body, as the College of Cardinals met for a second day to prepare for the conclave to elect the Pope’s successor.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, archbishop of Genoa, said the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square were there “to give back to the Pope all the love the pope gave to the world.”
Hundreds of dignitaries are expected to attend Friday’s ceremony, which, as Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said on Repubblica Radio, “will be a moment without precedent. Rome will grind to a halt to guarantee the full development of the demonstration of love for the pontificate, guaranteeing the maximum security for all the heads of state who will arrive to pay homage to the pope.”
From America, President and Laura Bush will attend the funeral, as will his father George Bush and former President Bill Clinton. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia are also on the guest list, say reports.
Prince Charles postponed his scheduled Friday wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles by a day so he could represent Queen Elizabeth II at the funeral. Others attending will include the heads of Muslim states and a delegation from communist Cuba.