VENERATION OF POPE’S REMAINS
BY CAROL GLATZ
MORE THAN 250,000 people visited Blessed John Paul II’s mortal remains on the day of his beatification.
At the end of the beatification Mass, Pope Benedict XVI, cardinals and other dignitaries knelt and prayed at the foot of the closed wooden coffin, many kissed the recently cleaned and polished wood.
Once the dignitaries left a thick velvet rope was put around the coffin and the public were allowed to stream up the right and down the left side of St Peter’s Basilica. The pilgrim path was marked by waist-high wooden barricades set back several feet from the coffin.
Ushers kept the crowds moving swiftly, leaving many with little time to linger. Small groups of people were allowed to kneel briefly in prayer far from the barricades. Many pilgrims who were in the square after the beatification only had to wait 30 minutes to get in to see the coffin.
Sister Milena, a member of the Sisters of St Elizabeth, said she only waited in line for half an hour right after the beatification Mass.
The 24-year-old nun from Wrocław, said it felt “very special, very nice” to be able to pray in front of his coffin. She said she prayed for a woman who recently joined her religious order. A man from Scotland said he got inside the basilica around one in the morning and called the moment “grace-filled”.
The Vatican said that within 13 hours some 250,000 people passed by the coffin to pay their respects before the basilica closed at three am on Tuesday morning. Hundreds of people handed ushers notes and flowers that were set behind the coffin.
The public viewing did not resume again until about one pm after the Mass of thanksgiving in St Peter's Square presided over by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state.
Fr Enda Naughton, 78, who works at Knock Shrine, said he had celebrated Mass with the late pope twice in his private chapel when he was alive. He said seeing his coffin “was lovely” and that his whole visit had been touched by the Blessed.
He said he was lucky to get into the basilica because “there was a queue miles long, snaking around. It would have taken hours”. Placed on top of the coffin was “one of the most precious gospels in the Vatican Library's holdings”, the illuminated Lorsch Gospels from the medieval era, the Vatican said in a written statement.