In Rome, while authorities struggled to cope with the suffocating crush, estimated at one million people, lining up to file past the pope’s body as it lies in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Tues evening, Archbishop Piero Marini explained that John Paul wished “to be buried in the ground.”
“John Paul would be buried with a white silk veil on his face, his body clad in liturgical vestments and the white miter,” Marini said, “and in keeping with tradition, his remains will be placed inside three coffins – wood, zinc and wood – a design meant to slow down the decomposition process.”
This Fri at least two million mourners are set to join leaders from more than 100 nations in a requiem mass, but the crowds are posing as a logistical and security nightmare ahead of Friday’s funeral.
In the pope’s native Poland, more than 630,000 people have so far signed an online book of condolence, its organizers said. At mid-afternoon Wed, the book took up 31,000 pages.
A Polish foreign ministry official said that a million Poles were expected to make the journey for the funeral.
In desperation, officials urged Romans to open their doors to the Pilgrims coming in from all corners of the world to pay their last respect to a leader who touched their hearts.
Kings and queens, presidents, prime ministers and religious leaders around the world are descending on Rome for Friday’s funeral.
To protect the funeral guests, Roman is preparing thousands of extra police, a surveillance plane, anti-aircraft missiles and a warship off the Meditation Coast, according to AP.
Working round the clock, civil protection officers and first-aid workers handed out water bottles or blankets, doctors and nurses manned mobile medical centers and volunteers shepherded the vast surge of mourners.
The tightly-packed queues stretched several kilometers (miles), but people insisted that it would be worth the wait despite the sun and the surge.
At least 2 million people are expected for the funeral and Rome city officials were slated to meet on Wed to decide whether to close shops and offices and order a total traffic ban to accommodate.
A number of people fainted in the queues for viewing the Pope’s body and had to be lifted over the barriers for medical treatment. Hundreds of people were treated for fainting and dehydration over the first two days of the Pope’s lying-in-state.
Many commented on their experience here. For some here, it is a religious experience. For others, it is a priceless moment in history. For still others, a simple chance to say farewell.
Annie, a French woman living in Rome, said she and her 13-year-old daughter were close to fainting after spending 10 hours in the line overnight.
"In the night we stayed for four hours in a small street without moving and many people fainted," she said.
"We told ourselves that this was our little Way of the Cross, a way to pay homage to him and that it was worth it," said Annie, a French woman who said she and her 13-year-old daughter were close to fainting.