Pope John Paul II Funeral

Pope John Paul II was buried at 2:20 p.m local time in what was surely the most-watched event in human history.

Pope Laid to Rest As World Bids Farewell (AP)

Photo: Pope John Paul II's coffin is carried away from St. Peter's Square after the funeral service on its way to the grottos beneath St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Friday, April 8, 2005. The grottos form a cramped underground cemetery beneath St. Peter's Basilica where pontiffs throughout the ages, royals and even an emperor have been laid to rest. (AP Photo/Diether Endlicher)
Presidents, prime ministers and kings joined pilgrims and prelates in St. Peter’s Square on Friday to bid an emotional farewell to Pope John Paul II at a funeral service that drew millions to Rome for the largest gathering of the powerful and the humble in modern times. Applause rang out in the wind-whipped square as John Paul’s plain cypress coffin, adorned with a cross and an “M” for the Virgin Mary, was brought out from St. Peter’s Basilica and placed on a carpet in front of the altar. The book of the Gospel was placed on the coffin and the wind lifted the pages.

After the Mass ended, bells tolled and 12 pallbearers with white gloves, white ties and tails presented the coffin to the crowd one last time, and then carried it on their shoulders back inside the basilica for burial — again to sustained applause from the hundreds of thousands in the square, including dignitaries from 138 countries.

Chants of “Santo! Santo!” — urging John Paul to be elevated to sainthood immediately — echoed in the square.

The first non-Italian pope in 455 years was buried at 2:20 p.m. (8:20 a.m. EDT) in the grotto under the basilica, attended by prelates and members of the papal household, the Vatican said.


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, a close confidant of John Paul and a possible successor, presided at the Mass and referred to him as our “late beloved pope” in a homily that traced the pontiff’s life from his days as a factory worker in Nazi-occupied Poland to his final days as the head of the world’s 1 billion Catholics. Interrupted by applause at least 10 times, the usually unflappable German-born Ratzinger choked up as he recalled one of John Paul’s last public appearances — when he blessed the faithful from his studio window on Easter.


At least 300,000 people filled St. Peter’s Square and spilled out onto the wide Via della Conciliazione leading toward the Tiber River, but millions of others watched on giant video screens set up across Rome. Banners read “Santo Subito,” or “Sainthood Immediately.” Many had camped out on the cobblestones in their sleeping bags, with hordes of the faithful stepping over them as they tried to secure a good spot to view the Mass.

Photo: French President Jacques Chirac (L) shakes and with US President George W. Bush before the funeral of Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square at the Vatican City. The pope's funeral mass drew a veritable United Nations of world leaders, from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to President Vicente Fox of Mexico.(AFP/Vincenzo Pinto) […]

President Bush sat on the aisle in the second row, next to his wife, Laura. Beside them were French President Jacques Chirac and his wife, Bernadette. The two presidents shook hands. When Bush’s face appeared on giant screen TVs showing the ceremony, many in the crowds outside St. Peter’s Square booed and whistled.


In Krakow, Poland, where John Paul studied for the priesthood, about 800,000 people watched the funeral on three TV screens set up in a field. Many had spent the night around bonfires after a Thursday night Mass drew a million people. Sirens wailed in Warsaw for three minutes to announce the start of the funeral to the Polish capital. Some 25,000 people packed Pilsudski Square where the pope celebrated Mass during his first visit to his homeland as pope.

The faithful also gathered across Africa, Asia and in the Americas to watch the service on television or to pray for John Paul.

A rather surreal display. Certainly, this is unlike any funeral I’ve ever seen. Ronald Reagan’s, the last one of a person of comparable magnitude, was much more understated. There was no cheering and booing, for example.

Millions Across Globe Mourn John Paul II (AP Europe)

Photo: Worshippers view a live broadcast on videowalls on Pilsudski Square in Warsaw, Poland, showing the funeral of Pope John Paul II, at the Vatican on Friday April 8, 2005. Some 25,000 people packed Warsaw's Pilsudski Square, Friday, where the pope celebrated Mass before a million people during his first visit to Poland as pope in 1979. At top is a portrait of Pope John Paul II. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz) Nearly 1 million people prayed in a Polish field, North Americans slipped into pews before dawn and Asians gathered by the thousands at outdoor Masses in a global goodbye to Pope John Paul II on Friday. The funeral Mass in Rome was telecast live to churches around the world — from Paris’ famed Notre Dame Cathedral to a seaside park in Manila, Philippines, to churches across Africa. “He has had a huge impact on us, we are the generation of John Paul II,” said Florence de la Rousserie, 27, one of 7,000 worshippers who filled Notre Dame. “He has taught us all the rules of Christian morality, of spirituality. I am moved. I am sorry.”

“He was a pope for humanity,” said Assemian Omer Alain, 40, from Ivory Coast who was one of about 500 people at Sacred Heart basilica overlooking Paris from the hill of Montmartre. “He was a phenomenon. All religions were the same to him. He made no difference between Christian or Muslim.”

Well, no. But he clearly made a lot of people feel that way.

An unprecedented outpouring for an extraordinary pope (USA Today – Editorial)

In life, Pope John Paul II reached out to the world as no pope ever had. This week, the world reached back with a dramatic outpouring of respect and affection. An unprecedented flood of presidents and prime ministers, royalty and religious leaders and at least 4 million simple pilgrims swept into Rome to celebrate his life and mourn his death. They came to attend Friday’s funeral, to view his three-day lying-in-state or to feel they had gotten close, at least one last time, to the man they felt they knew personally. Scores burst into tears when authorities cut off the line. It was dramatic testimony to the powerful impact of the onetime quarry laborer from Poland who became the larger-than-life leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Boosted by the blanket coverage of modern media, the outpouring even surpassed the massive response in 1963 to the death of Pope John XXIII, another inspiring, charming and wildly popular pope who paved the way for dramatic reforms in Catholic worship and religious life. But if John XXIII took the church closer to its people, John Paul II took it to the world – and the world responded. For many, the appeal was his consistent message of hope, respect and relief for the oppressed and downtrodden. For others, it was his unwavering devotion to orthodox church doctrines in a world of materialism and situational ethics. For all, it was a personal connection with his compelling and charismatic personality.

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Kevin Aylward

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.