Ten years ago exactly , on 8th April 2005, in the Basilica of St Peter, the solemn funeral of Pope John Paul II was being held by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at the time dean of the the College of Cardinals. Attending the funeral, there were many heads of state from all over the world, representatives of religions as well as hundreds and thousands of devotees estimated to be 359 thousand in the square. The event has represented the greatest gathering of political authorities in all history. In order to enable all countries to have their own delegation at the celebrations, the Holy Seat limited the maximum number of representatives for each country, except for Poland, the homeland of Karol Wojtyla, who could attend with ten members, and on behalf of Italy too. Other importat personalities from each nation could join in the celebrations outside the Basilica with the public, atteding as pilgrims. For example, the United States delegation consisted in the President and the First lady, the two former presidents and Secretary of State, who all had a seat in the Basilica. In addition to these, dozens of members of the US Congress participated in the celebrations together with the public outside the basilica.
The rites of the funeral lasted a little more than two and a half hours. The coffin was carried over the shoulders by 12 “sediari pontifici”, who were preceded by the procession of Cardinals and closed by the Dean of Cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger. Prayers, tears and applauses alternated between various moments of the ceremony amdist the crowds in the square of St.Peter’s and in front of giant screens set up across Rome. The applauses lasted long following Ratzinger’s homily: “We can be certain that our Beloved Pope is now at the window of the House of our Father, He is looking at us and is bestowing us His blessing. Yes, bless us Holy Father!”. This invocation directed to John Paul II which represented one of the most moving moments of the ceremony held for the solemn funeral of the body. Thousands of devotees, spent the night in the square and had crossed all Europe to come and give their last farewell to the Holy Pope.
From Monday 4th April, the Pntiff’s body was displayed inside the Basilica of St Peter’s, and a huge crowd had already paid homage to it, more than 3 million people, who during the day and throughout the night with persi stance awaited their turn, a long queue which measured up to 5 kilometres for over twenty hours. Admission to the queue was possible up till 10.00pm Wednesday 6th April, in order to be able to thin down the queue the following day.
The coffin was buried in the Vatican tombs at 2.20pm. The funeral was conducted by Cardinal Camerlengo Eduardo Martinez Somalo. On the Cypress wood, which enclosed a second casing made of nut and zinc, there was only a bronze cross bearing the name of the Pontiff. At 12,37pm when the coffin was displayed to the crowd for the last time, millions of pilgrims paid homage to it, amongst whom were leading world leaders. A long-lasting applause gave a last farewell to the coffin with a waving of the hands, as well as many bishops who were present on the sqaure. On 28th April, Pope Benedict XVI granted a dispensation for a five-year period following the death, t ogive way to the beautification and canonisation of John Paul II. The cause was officially opened on 28th June 2005 by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, General Vicar for the diocese of Rome. On 27th April 2014 Pope Francis proclaims saints Pope John Paul II and John XXIII.
“Both, said Pope Francis during the celebration, have been brave men”, they have never “ feared” of bending towards “suffering” and towards the “plagues” of men and in this way “have given testimony to the Church and the world of God’s goodness and mercy,”. Wojtyla and Roncalli “have been priests, bishops and popes in the XX century. They have known tragedies, but not have been overcome by them. God was stron in them, stronger their faith in Jesus Christ Saviour of mankind and Lord of history”. Ratzinger too wasp reset in the Church, for a ceremony that was soon to be “baptised again” the four Popes”. A million of devotees in St.Peter’s square from al lover the world: even in that occasion many came from Poland. One of the most impressive moments still in the memories of the devotees was when the two Popes, Bergoglio and thee il Papa Benedict Emeritus XVI embraced each other.
Translation provided by Marina Stronati