by Victor L. Simpson, Associated Press Writer
The College of Cardinals on Wednesday set April 18 as the date for the historic start of the conclave to elect a successor to Pope John Paul II, as the Vatican made final arrangements for the funeral expected to draw millions of pilgrims and world leaders to Rome.
The decision came after the cardinals read John Paul's spiritual testament during a pre-conclave meeting Wednesday, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said, adding that the text would be released on Thursday.
Navarro-Valls said cardinals would celebrate a morning Mass on April 18, then be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel in the early afternoon to start the conclave. According to church law, prelates are expected to hold one ballot on the first day of a conclave.
The date was set on the third day of meetings of cardinals who have flocked to
The reading of John Paul's testament was unlikely to influence the choice of the 117 cardinals who will cast ballots for the next head of the 1 billion-strong church.
The documents also did not reveal the name of a cardinal John Paul said he named in 2003 but never publicly identified, ending speculation that a last-minute cardinal might join the conclave.
The name of the cardinal was held "in pectore," or "in the heart" a formula that has been used when a pope wants to appoint a cardinal in a country where the church is oppressed.
Navarro-Valls also said that with huge crowds already converging on
In a major change to a centuries-old practice of electing a new pope, the
Black smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel signals no decision has been made after a papal ballot, while white smoke means a pope has been elected.
In the past, it has sometimes been hard to tell whether the smoke from the
In another change from past papal elections, cardinals voting in the conclave will have access to all of
Mourners are streaming past John Paul's crimson-robed remains at the rate of 600,000 a day in an almost round-the-clock procession through St. Peter's Basilica, city authorities said. The crush of pilgrims on the road leading to the
Pilgrims stood in a line more than a mile long for 12 hours in chilly pre-dawn temperatures Wednesday for a brief glimpse of the pope's body.
John Paul, who died Saturday at 84, made his wish known "to be buried in the ground," said Marini, a longtime aide as papal master of ceremonies.
Marini said John Paul would be buried with a white silk veil on his face, his body clad in liturgical vestments and the white miter. Keeping with tradition, his remains will be placed inside three coffins wood, zinc and wood a design meant to slow down the decomposition process.
A small bag of commemorative medals issued over the course of his 26-year pontificate, as well as a sealed document featuring a brief description in Latin of John Paul's life, will be buried with him, Marini said.
He said Polish wishes will go unfulfilled that soil from the pope's native country would be placed in the coffin.
In other developments, John Paul's personal physician was quoted as telling La Repubblica newspaper that John Paul "passed away slowly, with pain and suffering which he endured with great human dignity."
"The Holy Father could not utter a single word before passing away," Dr. Renato Buzzonetti was quoted as saying. "Just as happened in the last days he could not speak, he was forced to silence."
As the cardinals met, buses unloaded huge groups of students, pilgrims and clergy who joined the long line along the wide avenue leading to St. Peter's Square and through the streets of the neighborhood that surrounds the
Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, who spent years working at the
"This is the fourth funeral for a pope that I personally participated in. I think this exceeds everything," he said. "This is the most extraordinary thing that ever happened."
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