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Papal Funeral Begins, Ends With Private Ceremonies

  • VOA News

The funeral service for Pope John Paul was a meticulously planned ceremony that began and ended with private rituals in St. Peter's Basilica.

Senior clerics and friends of the pontiff gathered in the Basilica Friday morning as the pope's body was placed in a simple wood coffin, and a white silk cloth was placed over his face.

The closed coffin was carried outside of the church to an outdoor altar for the public funeral ceremony that was attended by hundreds of thousands of mourners. Nearly 4,000 dignitaries -- cardinals, senior clergy, leaders of other faiths, members of royal families and government chiefs from around the world -- were seated immediately outside the basilica.

The head of the Roman Catholic college of cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger, presided over a nearly three-hour funeral Mass that was broadcast live throughout the world.

High ranking church officials made brief offerings in six languages (French, Swahili, Filipino, Polish, German and Portuguese) before Cardinal Ratzinger delivered the emotional homily.

Pallbearers then carried the pontiff's coffin to a crypt beneath St. Peter's Basilica, accompanied by senior clerics and friends of Pope John Paul.

There, the pope's wooden coffin was placed in a zinc coffin and sealed and then placed inside an oak coffin, which was lowered into the ground and covered by a marble slab.

Some information for this report provided by CNN-monitored, AFP and AP.