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The world bids farewell to Pope John Paul II

The simple wooden coffin of the Pope in St Peter's square Keystone

Heads of state and royalty joined pilgrims at the Pope’s funeral service at the Vatican on Friday, in what was one of the largest religious gatherings of modern times.

Several kings and queens and at least 70 presidents and prime ministers – including Swiss President Samuel Schmid – were in attendance, along with more than a dozen leaders of other faiths.

Pope John Paul II’s simple wooden coffin was placed on the ground in front of the altar in St Peter’s Basilica for the duration of the three-hour Mass.

The Polish pontiff died on Saturday after a decade of suffering and sickness, unleashing a worldwide outpouring of grief, both within the Catholic Church and beyond.

Most of the millions who travelled to Rome for the funeral had to watch the proceedings on giant screens set up across the city. Hundreds of millions more around the world are believed to have followed the funeral live on television.

Bells tolled and the crowd applauded when the coffin was presented to them one last time before being carried back inside for burial. The Pope was buried at 2:20pm local time in the crypt under the basilica.

The Vatican announced that he was buried near the tomb traditionally believed to be of the apostle Peter, the first Pope.


Rome was at a standstill on Friday morning; vehicles were banned from the roads and the air space above the city was closed.

Italian authorities took extraordinary precautions to protect royalty and heads of state and government attending the funeral. Among the dignitaries were the presidents of Iran and Syria, as well as Jewish and Muslim leaders.

President Bush led the United States delegation, which also included his father, George Bush senior, and another former president, Bill Clinton.

Swiss President Samuel Schmid said he was profoundly moved by the ceremony, saying it reflected the Pope’s charisma.

Following the service, Schmid visited the Vatican’s Swiss guards, thanking them for their work.

About 1,000 people attended a special memorial service in Bern on Thursday, led by Swiss bishops and the Papal Nuncio (Vatican diplomatic representative) to Switzerland.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin represented the Swiss government.

swissinfo with agencies

Millions flocked to Rome to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican – one of the biggest events of its kind in history.
More than 200 heads of state, prime ministers and religious leaders attended the ceremony.
Switzerland was represented by President Samuel Schmid and four Catholic bishops.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR