Pope pondered his fate in 2000
| Thursday, 04.07.2005, 03:53 PM |   (1011 views)

VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Ailing and tired in 2000, Pope John Paul II pondered whether he had accomplished what he was meant to do as head of the Roman Catholic church and wondered if it was his time to die, passing the flame to the next pope to bring the church forward in the next millennium.

Already suffering from Parkinson's disease and other ailments that year, John Paul -- in his spiritual will released Thursday by the Vatican -- wondered if bringing the church to the 21st Century had been his task as pope.

Reflecting on the story of Simeon, who had been told he would not die before seeing the Messiah, the pope recalled the old man's prayer when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus into the temple.

"Lord, now let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled," Simeon said, the story recounted in the New Testament's Gospel of Luke.

The pontiff wrote his 15-page testament in Polish, beginning in 1979, the year after he became pope. The pope has said that he reviewed it each Lenten season. (Text of will)

His first entries concern his parents, brother and sister, all of whom died early in his life -- an infant sister before he was born, a brother when he was 9, his mother when he was 12 and finally his father when he was 21.

John Paul wrote that he left no material possessions behind and asked that his personal records be burned. Other than his family, he mentioned only two people -- his personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, and the former chief rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, who hosted John Paul in 1986 when he was the first modern pope to visit a synagogue.

The Polish-born pope also considered having his funeral in Krakow, Poland, but ultimately left the decision to the College of Cardinals, who decided he will be buried in the grotto beneath St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican provided an Italian translation of the document and has promised copies in other languages later.

As details of the will were made public, Vatican officials Thursday reopened the lines leading into St. Peter's Basilica after closing them Wednesday night to ensure that everyone already in the queue would be able to pass by Pope John Paul II's body.

The Basilica will close at 10 p.m. Thursday (4 p.m. ET) to allow time to prepare for Friday's funeral, and officials are expected to make an announcement later in the day about a final freeze on the lines.

The wait to see the pope was usually from 10 to 12 hours.

As of Wednesday, about 2 million people had filed briefly past the body.

Among them: President Bush, joined by his two predecessors, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

Besides the current and former presidents, the delegation included first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

They arrived shortly after 10 p.m. at the basilica and were escorted through an entrance separate from that used by the public. They knelt at a rail surrounding the body for nearly four minutes, then stood at the pope's foot for a moment before walking away. (Full story)

After the public viewing ends, time will be allowed for private viewing by dignitaries and to prepare the basilica for Friday's funeral.

Cardinals denied a request that the pope's body be carried after the funeral to the nearby Basilica of St. John Lateran, so more people could pay their respects.

"This is not really possible technically," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

Rome officials estimated that 5 million people will have come to the Italian capital city by the time the funeral is over.

Meanwhile, out of public sight, Roman Catholic cardinals went about the business of preparing to select the pope's successor.

Navarro-Valls told reporters that the cardinals, in their fourth meeting since the pope's death Saturday, set April 18 for the start of their conclave to select a new pontiff.

That is a day after the last of nine days of mourning, highlighted by nine requiem Masses that begin after Friday's funeral, Navarro-Valls said.

One of the 117 cardinals eligible to participate in the conclave -- Jaime Sin of Manila -- may not be able to do so because of illness, the Vatican said.

The conclave will be held in strict secrecy, with severe punishment awaiting any cardinal who violates it. (Full story)

Leaders arriving

Rome prepared for the arrival of some 200 world leaders planning to attend the funeral, and the huge crowds presented a security challenge.

The Italian Interior Ministry said armored vehicles would be provided for world leaders. (Full story)

Metal detectors were being installed in St. Peter's Square for the funeral, and the number of security forces by Friday was to swell to 15,000, including 1,500 military forces, an official said.

Mayor Walter Veltroni said all nonessential traffic will be halted in Rome from midnight Thursday until 6 p.m. Friday, with schools and other public buildings closed between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

With hotels full and so many visitors in the ancient city, Veltroni issued "an informal invitation for the citizens of Rome" to allow pilgrims to stay in their homes.

In addition, officials have turned the site of the Roman Circus Maximus into a free visitors' campground.

The cardinals eligible to vote for the new pope are those who are under 80. They are to gather for the conclave at the Sistine Chapel.

A new rule instituted by John Paul II will give the cardinals more freedom to wander the Vatican, but they still cannot talk with anyone outside their peers or receive any communication from outside until they have made a choice. (Election rituals)

After each vote -- there are to be two per day -- the ballots will be burned, with the smoke rising into a Vatican chimney. Black smoke means no decision was reached; white signals a new pontiff has been chosen.

John Paul II changed the rules to require that the basilica's bells also ring to announce a new pope. In the past, there has been confusion because the white smoke can appear gray.



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