Miles-long queue to view Pope John Paul one last time

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Tens of thousands of regular people walked through the domed St. Peter's Basilica today, but the queue behind them never seemed to ebb, according to reporters in The Vatican.

Winding over two miles from the bier holding the Pontiff's body all the way to the Tiber River, backpackers from all over the world, young and old, students and the disabled, waited and slowly shuffled toward their goal: one last look at the pope they had come to feel was like a father to them.

A French park ranger spoke of the physical pain the pope must have suffered while remaining so peaceful in spirit. Another visitor was hoping to kiss his hand or touch his robe. They were satisfied with merely a chance to view his crimson-robed body, as visible in death as he had been only weeks earlier, in life.

Nearly 2 million people will visit The Vatican for the funeral service on Friday, an unprecedented salute for a public figure who may have helped bring down the Iron Curtain.

Other voices were heard as well, but they were in dissent. Amidst Pope Paul’s uncompromising orthodoxy, they said, he had destroyed democracy in the Church and alienated many. And although most of the mourners were contrite and moved slowly through the long queue, there were the usual “line jumpers,” greeted by catcalls and impatient reactions from others.

“Filthy pigs! We’ll all be dead by the time we get in,” an elderly woman spat in Italian.

The city of Rome, which surrounds Vatican City, has set up campgrounds in stadiums and public places for open use during the events. One lady said she didn’t care where she slept or even if she would.

Sabina La Versa had taken the all-night train from Sicily to view the pontiff. She said “The pope’s love for us flowed like water from a jug. I’d wait here forever to say arrivederci,” Italian for “see you again.”