by Steven Ertelt
April 4, 2005
The Vatican (LifeNews.com) — Pope John Paul II will be buried in a spectacular funeral Friday morning that will be attended by hundreds of thousands of Catholics and leading dignitaries such as President George W. Bush and Prince Charles.
The Catholic Church leader died on Saturday at age 84 after dealing with months of declining health, Parkinson’s disease and chronic hip ailments. The Pope passed away in his Vatican City apartment, preferring to die at home rather than be taken to the hospital.
Meanwhile, the Catholic cardinals who will choose a successor held their first meeting on Monday. The 65 cardinals present took an oath of secrecy, as stipulated in a Vatican document explaining the procedures for electing a new pope.
The cardinals, who met at the Bologna Hall of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, also made decisions about the burial of Pope John Paul II.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Pope would "almost surely’ be buried in the same tomb as Pope John XXIII.
The cardinals, who will vote in a special election for a new pope, known as a conclave, have not yet decided the date for the election. Any election must be held within two weeks of the burial of the pope, scheduled for Friday morning.
The College of Cardinals has 117 members and the new church leader must receive two-thirds of the vote and accept the nomination.
Cardinal Bernard Panafieu, one of the five French cardinals with a vote, told the Associated Press he was looking for a person who "dynamizes the people" the way Pope John Paul II did.
Some have suggested the Catholic Church turn to a non European as the next leader and look to Catholics from Africa or South America. Pope John Paul II was the first non Italian elected as pope in 455 years, and he was born in Poland.
Leading Catholic figures who could be tapped as the next Pope include Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Vatican-based Nigerian, and Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes.
Arinze, who shares John Paul’s pro-life views on abortion and other issues, is touted by conservative Catholics. If named, he would be the first black pope.
Hummes would also likely keep the Catholic church on its strongly pro-life path as the Brazilian Catholic Church has waged a strong effort to oppose abortion and stop the expansion of embryonic stem cell research.
Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodiguez Maradiaga of Honduras is another possible candidate.
Other possibilities include Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the archbishop of Milan, considered a moderate; Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice; Giovanni Battista Re, an Italian who served as president of the Vatican commission for Latin America; Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna; and Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels.
Pope John Paul II has led the Catholic Church for 26 years and been regarded as one of the strongest advocates of the pro-life position on abortion and bioethics issues like euthanasia and stem cell research.
William Donohue, a leading American Catholic activist says he’s certain the new leader of the Catholic Church will continue its strong pro-life direction.
"He’s not going to change, most of the teachings of the church have been pretty well set," Donohue told the Don Imus radio program about a new pope.
"The Catholic Church talks about restraint in a world where restraint is a dirty word. That’s not going to change," he added.
Europe has 58 papal electors and Italy has 20. Latin America has 21 while Africa has 11. The United States has 11 cardinals capable of voting in the conclave. Cardinals must be under 80 years old to vote.