Monday, April 04, 2005

Pope's Body Heads Toward Public Viewing

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON, Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY - The body of Pope John Paul II began its journey from the Apostolic Palace to St. Peter's Basilica for public viewing Monday, four days before being entombed in the grotto where pontiffs throughout the ages have been laid to rest.

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Tens of thousands of mourners broke into applause as 12 pallbearers, flanked by Swiss Guards, carried the body into the square on a crimson platform from the Sala Clementina, where it had lain in state since Sunday.

Before the procession began, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo said prayers and sprinkled the body with holy water as chanting echoed off the walls of the ornate Vatican hall.

Images of the procession were shown on giant screens in the square and on the main avenue toward the basilica, where more than 100,000 pilgrims, mourners and tourists solemnly watched.

Members of the College of Cardinals, the red-capped princes of the church, accompanied the procession, as well as bishops and other prelates.

They went slowly through the frescoed halls as the choir chanted, moving along the Scala Nobile, the First Loggia, the Sala Ducale, the Sala Regia and the Scala Regia.

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