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Some 1 million pay respects to pope

  |   April 5, 2005 at 9:31 PM
VATICAN CITY, April 5 (UPI) -- Officials in Rome said about 1 million people, some waiting in line 10 hours or more, took part in the first full day of public grieving for the pope.

A timeless river of humanity moved slowly through the streets around St. Peter's Basilica, which has been opened 21 hours a day to allow as many people as possible to view the body of Pope John Paul II, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Government officials in Rome estimated approximately 400,000 people were in St. Peter's Square Monday when the pope's body was carried through the crowd and into the basilica, while an additional estimated 600,000 people walked though the St. Peter's to have, at most, 15 to 20 seconds to view the pope's body.

Mayor Walter Veltroni of Rome said, "I think that nothing else in history compares to this event, and we've had so little time to prepare."

Leaders of about 100 nations, including U.S. President George Bush, will attend the pontiff's Friday funeral.

The lawyer of the man who shot the pope in 1981, Mustafa Demirbag, told CNN his client unsuccessfully sought permission to attend the pope's funeral. "Mehmet Ali Agca expressed to me over and over that he's very sorry for the death of the pope," he said.

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