(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Cardinals have vowed to public silence this week as they prepare for next week’s secret vote to pick Pope John Paul II’s successor.
On Monday, the cardinals began conclave, the silent process by which they are traditionally secluded in a room and do not emerge until a new pope is elected. Vatican officials say they have beefed up security to ensure privacy to the College of Cardinals. Until the end of conclave, cardinals have pledged not to speak publicly until after they have chosen the new religious leader for the world’s 1.1 Roman Catholics.
According to Vatican officials, the 84-year-old pontiff died April 2, from septic shock and cardiocirculatory collapse. The Pope John Paul II was laid to rest Friday in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica in front of millions of pilgrims.
“I think today, this morning, in Rome, we witnessed the largest funeral in the history of the world,” Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, told the Associated Press after the funeral. “That sounds like an extraordinary statement, but I think it’s true. There were about 5 million people crowded in all the streets and all the side streets and all over the city.”
About 200 world leaders attended the 264th pope’s funeral including French President Jacques Chirac, Britain’s Prince Charles, and for the first time in history, the president of the United States. President Bush was joined at the funeral by former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
While millions waited in line for days to view the pope’s body in Vatican City and to attend the funeral service, there were many events around Washington for people to celebrate and mourn the pontiff, including flags around the city being lowered to half-mast.
At Catholic University, photos and quotations from the late pope were displayed in every campus building. On the day John Paul II was laid to rest, the university replayed the two-and-a-half hour funeral service throughout the day for those who did not awaken at 4 a.m. to catch it live on television.
“I wanted to be able to see the funeral service but just couldn’t get up at that time,” said American University student Veronica Savoy, who went watched a re-broadcasting with a friend who attends Catholic University. “Later in the day I went over and watched it and there were other students and community members there. It was much more meaningful than watching it alone on television.”
According to an April 2 statement by university president Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, the university had a special connection with the pontiff. On his only trip to Washington on Oct. 7, 1979, the late pope visited the university.
“We are, after all, the university designated by the Church as its own,” he said. “Because of that, we are the place he came to, as a pilgrim shortly after his election, to meet with the leaders of all American Catholic universities and colleges. Because of that, we are the community that enjoyed his presence as a visiting lecturer in our School of Philosophy, before he assumed his responsibilities as Chief Shepherd and Teacher of the universal Church. We have been his university in the United States.”
At the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, a museum in Northeast Washington across from Catholic University, visiting hours have been extended until the election of a new pope. Visitors can come to the center for prayer services or view art. In addition the exhibitions, the center has books that mourners can sign to send notes to the pope.
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