Wednesday, April 06, 2005

From the BBC news - The Conclave date is set. Vatican sets papal election date

This report comes to us via the BBC news ...


The Vatican in Rome has announced that the cardinals of the Catholic Church will meet on 18 April to begin the process of electing a new pope.

The gathering, known as a conclave, will take place behind closed doors and could take more than a week.

The number of mourners queuing in St Peter's Square to view the body of Pope John Paul II has now reached a million.

Officials were planning to stop people joining the queue at 2200 (2000 GMT), to ensure those in line view the Pope.

From Thursday evening the Vatican will close the gates of St Peter's Basilica and begin preparations for the Pope's funeral on Friday.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Pope's 15-page testament had been opened and read by the cardinals, but would not be published until Thursday.

Mr Navarro-Valls said the text, written in Polish, had not revealed the name of a mystery cardinal secretly appointed by the Pope in 2003,.

Popes sometimes name cardinals "in pectore" (in the heart) and keep their names secret if revealing the identity would put them in physical danger.

Long wait

The tightly packed lines of people queuing to see the Pope's body lying in state in St Peter's Basilica stretch back nearly 2km (1.2 miles).

Massive crowds have been queuing to see the Pope's body.

Each hour, 18,000 people are filing past the pontiff, who died on Saturday.

Italian phone companies have been sending text messages warning mourners that they can expect a wait of up to 12 hours.

One man from Naples said he had been waiting in the queue with his wife for seven hours.

"These sacrifices that we are making now are nothing compared to what he deserves," Gino d'Anna told Reuters news agency.

Foreign dignitaries

Some two million Poles are reported to be on their way to say goodbye to their countryman.

Extra planes, buses and trains have been laid on after Rome-bound flights on Polish airlines were sold out within hours of the funeral date being announced.

One woman told the BBC: "I have to go because I love the Pope and I want to spend this time with him there in Rome."

FUNERAL GUESTS
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
US President George W Bush
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei
French President Jacques Chirac
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian
DR Congo President Joseph Kabila
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

Pilgrims from Spain have also been crowding the roads to Italy.

In Rome itself, the roads and underground railway are already congested with mourners.

Italian authorities have appealed to the people of Rome to do their best to accommodate visitors in their homes, the AFP news agency reports.

Hotels within a 200km (124mile) radius are reported to be full, and the authorities are arranging makeshift dormitories and campsites.

Airspace over Rome will be closed on Thursday and Friday, as tight security is put in force for the many foreign leaders arriving for the Pope's funeral.

Some 200 foreign dignitaries will attend, including US President George W Bush, his predecessor Bill Clinton, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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