VATICAN CITY (Combined Sources)–The doors of St. Peter’s Basilica opened to tens of thousands of mourners to view the body of Pope John Paul II on Monday–four days before it was to be entombed in the grotto below the church alongside popes of centuries past.
Swiss Guards escorted the procession from a palatial hall in the Vatican–accompanied by many of the cardinals who will choose the Pope’s successor. The pontiff’s body was moved through St. Peter’s Square and into St. Peter’s Basilica–where it will lie in state until his funeral on Friday.
The basilica will remain open until Friday’s funeral. Rome expects up to two million extra visitors coming to pay their respects.
Heads of state from around the world are expected to attend.
President Bush said Monday that he would lead the US delegation that will attend the funeral–and leave for Rome as early as Wednesday.