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Friday, April 08, 2005

Pope's funeral in Warsaw

The city streets are almost completely empty. In the palace square, outside the cathedral on the east bank and on plac Pilsudskiego, where the Pope spoke on his first pilgrimage to Poland as Pope, huge screens and PA systems have been set up. Some churches also had "screenings" of the funeral.

At the last minute I decided not to iron my ancestor's shirts in front of the TV, and caught a tram to the centre. Sirens went off all over the city at the beginning of the funeral, from buildings and emergency vehicles. Don't know how many people were on Plac Pilsudskiego, but most of them seemed to be trying to shove in front of me in the first two minutes of the Mass, but I managed to see most of it some of the time. This open square backs on to a large park, and at the point where the two meet is the tomb of the unkown soldier. As we watched the Holy Father's coffin being taken into the basilica, the double row of soldiers that had marched in front of the tomb during the offertory (as I remember) presented arms. Then an amplified voice announced the tribute of the Polish Army to Pope John Paul II, and they let off a 21 (or more, I counted 26, could that be right?) salute. The ground shook, my ears were ringing after the first few shots, these were big guns like cannons and were maybe fifty metres away.

Then a priest or bishop read from Jn 6, and said a few entirely appropriate words, and led us (brave man) in singing a song the HF was apparently tres keen on, leaving one's boat on the shore and going on a new fishing trip, "for You, o Lord, have called my name". And we all went home. I took special fried rice from a Vietnamese noodle hut, and conducted a private wake for the HF in front of more great stuff on the TV.