Pope's body moved to St Peter's Basilica

Last updated at 17:02 04 April 2005

Pope John Paul's body was carried by pall bearers into St Peter's Basilica on Monday, passing through the huge doors of the church that had been his for more than a quarter of a century.

The procession of cardinals, bishops and dignitaries snaked its way slowly through the frescoed hallways of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, down marble stairways and into St Peter's. Square, which was packed with tens of thousands of faithful.

Before it entered the Basilica, it passed over the precise spot from where John Paul had presided over thousands of general audiences and Masses, including his first inaugural Mass as Pope on October 22, 1978, six days after his election.


The crowds, who had queued up for hours to catch a final glimpse of the Pontiff, applauded when his body emerged into the square in a traditional sign of respect for the dead.

The Pope's body lay on a red velvet litter. It was carried by 12 ushers who had served him in the Vatican and was flanked by Swiss Guard in ceremonial uniform.

On the threshold of the Basilica, ushers who had been carrying the body feet first, turned it around for a minute so the Pope faced the crowds in the piazza for a last time.

Then, the body was carried up the great Basilica's long, main aisle, towards the main altar.

The body was preceded by monks carrying lit candles to the sounding of the chanting of the "Lord have mercy", sung in Latin, and a ritual litany asking all the Saints of the Church to pray for the deceased.

Police estimated more than 100,000 people were lined up on the broad boulevard leading to the basilica waiting to file past the body of the Pontiff, who died on Saturday.