Pope Considered Resigning in 2000

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ The late Pope John Paul II suggested in his last will and testament that he considered the possibility of resigning in 2000, at a time when he was already ailing and when the Roman Catholic Church began its new millennium.

The document, which the Vatican released today, also said he had left no material property and asked that all his personal notes be burned. It mentioned only two living people: his personal secretary and the chief rabbi of Rome who welcomed him to Rome's synagogue in 1986.

The Polish-born pope, who died Saturday at the age of 84, also had considered the possibility of a funeral in Poland, but later left it up to the College of Cardinals to decide. The pope will be buried under St. Peter's Basilica on Friday after a funeral in the square.

John Paul wrote the testament over the course of his 26-year pontificate, starting in 1979, the year after he was elected. It was written in his native Polish and translated by the Vatican into Italian.

Writing in 2000, the pope, who suffered from Parkinson's disease and crippling hip and knee ailments, suggested the time was one of apparent torment for him, mentioning the 1981 attempt on his life. He called his survival a "miracle."

He said he hoped the Lord "would help me to recognize how long I must continue this service to which he called me the day of 16 October, 1978."

He also prayed at the time that he would have the "necessary strength" to continue his mission as long as he was serving as pope.

John Paul mentioned only two people in his will. They were his personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, whom he thanked profusely for his years of service. And in recalling various Christian and non-Christians for thanks, he singled out "the rabbi of Rome" — a reference to the former chief rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, who hosted John Paul during the pontiff's historic visit to Rome's central synagogue in 1986.

It was the first time a pope had ever visited a synagogue. Toaff paid his respects when he viewed John Paul's body on Monday, raising his arm in a gesture of tribute.

Police reopened the line to St. Peter's Basilica Thursday, giving the faithful a final chance to pay respects to Pope John Paul II. Thousands of Poles held aloft red-and-white Polish flags, adding a shimmering stripe of color to the procession.

Authorities had closed the line Wednesday night as officials rushed to make last-minute preparations for the pope's pomp-filled funeral on Friday, which was drawing leaders from more than 100 countries. They also closed the basilica for a few hours overnight for cleaning.

By the time the basilica and line reopened, many who had waited hours for a chance to spend a few seconds briefly viewing the pope's crimson-robed body had given up and left.

Officials said Thursday morning's line was moving quicker, with the wait dramatically shortened to just a few hours. But they announced that the basilica doors would be shut at 10 p.m., making it likely that the line would be closed later in the day to spare pilgrims too far back from waiting in vain. On Wednesday, some in the throng had waited 24 hours to get inside.

Later Thursday, the Vatican was to release the text of John Paul's spiritual testament — a 15-page document the late pontiff began writing in his native Polish in 1979, the year after he was elected pope.

The Vatican also released the series of Masses that will be celebrated during the nine days of mourning that begin on Friday with the pope's funeral. Among the prelates celebrating the Masses is Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as archbishop of Boston amid the sex abuse scandal and now heads the St. Mary Major basilica — one of the most important churches in Rome.

Officials on Wednesday sent text messages on Italian cellular phone networks that warned subscribers: "St. Peters full." Later that night they erected barricades to prevent people from joining the line.

At one point during the night, pilgrims who had been cut off began chanting, "Open, Open." As the line reopened, police said pilgrims had to wait only about three hours before entering the basilica.

The line was filled with Polish flags on Thursday as some of the 2 million Poles expected to travel from John Paul's native country arrived. The pope is credited with helping to end communism in Poland and unite Europe.

President Bush was joined by his father, former President George H.W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton in giving a private tribute Wednesday night, kneeling at the side of John Paul's bier and folding their hands in silent prayer.

They were among the monarchs, presidents and heads of government from more than 100 countries who have begun arriving for a funeral Friday that will be marked by solemn pageantry. John Paul died on Saturday at age 84.

Italian authorities readied anti-aircraft rocket launchers and took other security measures to protect the dignitaries converging on Rome for the funeral. Naval boats were patrolling the Tiber River that marks the boundary of Vatican City, and missile-armed ships were guarding the coastline.

As they planned the transition from John Paul's eventful 26-year reign, the College of Cardinals set April 18 as the start of its conclave to elect a successor, a papal election with new rules and new technologies.

With 3,500 accredited journalists watching, the 116 cardinals expected to chose the next pope will be mindful of the warning in a document by John Paul to abide by their vow of secrecy — or face "grave penalties according to the judgment of the future pope."

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the cardinals would celebrate a morning Mass on April 18, then be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel in the early afternoon for their first secret ballot.

In past conclaves, the so-called "princes of the church" were locked in the Apostolic Palace, crammed into tiny makeshift cubicles without running water and limited toilet facilities.

John Paul, in a 1996 change, said the cardinals would be housed in a hotel within the Vatican walls that he had built. Each cardinal now has a private room and bath.

Also unlike previous conclaves, the electors would be free to roam the Vatican, though they are forbidden from communicating with anyone outside. The Sistine Chapel and other areas will be swept for any electronic listening devices.

According to church law, prelates are expected to hold at least one ballot on the first day of a conclave. If no one gets the required two-thirds majority after about 12 days, cardinals may change procedure and elect the pope by simple majority.

Indonesian Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, the archbishop of Jakarta, said Thursday he hoped the College of Cardinals would keep John Paul's legacy in mind when they enter the conclave.

"We hope that the man they appointed will be more or less like him," he told reporters as he entered the Vatican for Thursday's pre-conclave meetings.

John Paul's spiritual document did not name the mystery cardinal he created in 2003, Navarro-Valls said. John Paul created the "in pectore" or "in the heart" cardinal in his last consistory. The formula is used when the pope wants to name a cardinal from a country where the church is oppressed.

The number of cardinal electors under age 80 and thus eligible to vote is 117. On Wednesday, the Philippines Embassy to the Holy See said Cardinal Jaime Sin, 76, was too ill to attend. However, on Thursday, Sin's office in Manila said the cardinal was hoping to attend despite his poor health.

Overwhelmed Italian officials asked pilgrims Wednesday to stop lining up to see Pope John Paul's body at St. Peter's Basilica, where a massive line snaked down a wide boulevard, through ancient alleyways and onto a bridge.

People faced a 24-hour wait as things stand, said Luca Spoletini, a spokesman for the Civil Defence Department. Officials would block off the line starting at around 10 p.m. local time - and maybe even earlier, he said.

Many people waited in line 12 hours overnight, wrapped in thick brown blankets handed out by civil defence authorities.

One million people were believed to have waited to see the Pope on Monday and Tuesday, the Civil Defence Department said.

The line grew by the hour Wednesday, the third day pilgrims were allowed to file into the basilica. By noon, people were lined up on a bridge across the Tiber River. The crowd was mostly calm, but occasionally someone would try to push into the line, prompting angry shouts.

A group of women who flew in from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia ate breakfast on the steps of the church after a 12-hour wait.

One couple, wrapped in a blanket to keep warm, said they also waited 12 hours. Massimo Martone, from Avellino in southern Italy, said he wished he had paid more attention to the Pope when he was alive.

"Reading about him in the papers, I've been feeling so emotional," he said.

Dignitaries and other notables were allowed to skip the line, including the AS Roma soccer squad, which filed past the Pope's body dressed in their dark team blazers early Wednesday, led by captain Francesco Totti.

The basilica was closed for cleaning from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., which contributed to the wait to see the Pope, who died Saturday aged 84.

Many moved to the side of the line during the closure to rest on the benches or lie down in sleeping bags.

When the massive bronze doors of St. Peter's reopened, those in line burst into applause.

One local resident had set up an impromptu stall outside St. Peter's to sell photos of the Pope to people leaving the basilica. Late into the night he peddled images at three euros each of John Paul smiling among a group of youngsters or imparting a Sunday blessing.

Crowds swelled Monday before John Paul's body was carried solemnly from the Vatican's Apostolic Palace into the basilica to go on public view.

John Paul will be laid to rest Friday in the grotto of St. Peter's, alongside popes of centuries past and near the traditional tomb of the first pope, St. Peter.

Some predict the number of pilgrims flowing into Rome may surpass the city's own three million residents.

The College of Cardinals on Wednesday set April 18 as the date for the start of its historic secret vote in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the late Pope John Paul II did not release the name of the cardinal he secretly appointed. He said the cardinals read John Paul's 15-page testament, written in Polish at different stages of his pontificate, and would release the text on Thursday.

The reading of Pope John Paul II's last writings is unlikely to influence the choice of the 117 cardinals who will cast ballots later this month for the next head of the 1 billion-strong church. It did not reveal the identity of a secret cardinal John Paul said he had named in 2003 and held "in pectore,'' or "in the heart'' - a formula that has been used when the pope wants to appoint a cardinal in a country where the church is oppressed.

Vatican officials have given no indication of what else might be among the late pontiff's final papers.

In a major change to a centuries-old practice, the Vatican said it planned to ring bells in addition to sending up white smoke to announce that a new pope has been chosen.

Black smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel signals no decision has been made after a papal ballot, while white smoke means a pope has been elected.

In the past, it has sometimes been hard to tell whether the smoke from the Vatican chimney was white or black. "This time we plan to ring the bells to make the election of the pope clearer,'' Archbishop Piero Marini said Tuesday.

In another change from past papal elections, cardinals voting in the conclave will have access to all of Vatican City during the election, as opposed to being sequestered in the Sistine Chapel, Marini said.

More cardinals had arrived in Rome but Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said after Tuesday's pre-conclave meeting they had not decided on a date for the conclave at which they elect a pope. According to church law it must occur between 15 and 20 days after the pontiff's death.

Mourners are streaming past John Paul's crimson-robed remains at the rate of 600,000 a day in an almost round-the-clock procession through St. Peter's Basilica, city authorities said. The crush of pilgrims on the road leading to the Vatican will rise sharply when an expected 2 million Poles arrive in Rome for Friday's funeral of the Polish-born pontiff.

Pilgrims stood in a line more than a mile long for 12 hours in chilly pre-dawn temperatures Wednesday for a brief glimpse of the pope's body.

Italy was calling in extra police to the capital and planned to seal off much of the Eternal City on Friday to protect a VIP contingent that will include dozens of heads of state from around the world. President Bush and the first lady, former President Clinton, former President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will represent the United States.

John Paul, who died Saturday at 84, made his wish known "to be buried in the ground,'' said Marini, a longtime aide as papal master of ceremonies.

Marini said John Paul would be buried with a white silk veil on his face, his body clad in liturgical vestments and the white miter. Keeping with tradition, his remains will be placed inside three coffins - wood, zinc and wood - a design meant to slow down the decomposition process.

A small bag of commemorative medals issued over the course of his 26-year pontificate, as well as a sealed document featuring a brief description in Latin of John Paul's life, will be buried with him, Marini said.

He said Polish wishes will go unfulfilled that soil from the pope's native country would be placed in the coffin.

In other developments, John Paul's personal physician was quoted as telling La Repubblica newspaper that John Paul "passed away slowly, with pain and suffering which he endured with great human dignity.''

"The Holy Father could not utter a single word before passing away,'' Dr. Renato Buzzonetti was quoted as saying. "Just as happened in the last days he could not speak, he was forced to silence.''

As the cardinals met, buses unloaded huge groups of students, pilgrims and clergy who joined the long line along the wide avenue leading to St. Peter's Square and through the streets of the neighborhood that surrounds the Vatican.

Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, who spent years working at the Vatican and was in St. Peter's Square for three other papal funerals, called the outpouring for John Paul the most dramatic he has witnessed.

"This is the fourth funeral for a pope that I personally participated in. I think this exceeds everything,'' he said. "This is the most extraordinary thing that ever happened.''
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