The live TV broadcast of the funeral for Pope John Paul II early this morning was a moving, powerful event no matter what one’s religious beliefs or feelings about the church are. The sheer spectacle of the massive crowds of people who stood in the streets throughout Rome to watch the ceremony on one of the 27 large screens erected, or the thousands more gathered for the large outdoor ceremony in St. Peter’s Square (not to mention the scenes of people in Poland), conveyed striking images. Some 200 world leaders shared a “sign of peace” during the funeral mass, but even more powerful was the tremendous applause that marked multiple moments in the service, punctuated by tolling bells.
As The New York Times reported this morning:
Nearly every free inch of Vatican City was covered by John Paul’s admirers, the important and ordinary alike in the millions. Many pilgrims slept outdoors to have a place at the funeral.
It was the biggest funeral for a pope in the nearly 2,000-year history of the office, and perhaps one of the broadest meetings of leaders from all the world’s major religions.