WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 1963 (UPI) - The body of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, lay in repose today in the East Room of the White House.
A gray Navy ambulance carried the body of the slain chief executive from Bethesda Naval Hospital through the streets of the nation's capital in the dark hours before dawn. Hundreds watched in silence as the ambulance entered the White House gate.
Behind closed curtains, with him in death as in life, was his young wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, heavy laden with the burden of her grief. She was still wearing the pink suit she wore in Dallas yesterday.
Accompanied by the president's brother, Attny. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy, she walked behind the six military pallbearers who carried the flag-draped coffin into the East Room of the White House.
The casket was placed on a catafalque in the center of the room. A military honor guard took up its position and two priests knelt to pray the night through for Kennedy, the nation's first Roman Catholic president.
It will be in the ornate East Room, the scene of so many memorable events in the history of the United States and of Kennedy's presidency, that his family and the great of the nation assemble today to pay their last respects.
Tomorrow at 1 p.m. (EST) the president's body will be moved from the White house in a formal funeral cortege to the Great Rotunda of the Capitol, more than a mile down Pennsylvania Avenue, there to lie in state until 10 a.m. EST Monday.
At 11 a.m. Monday, the president's body will be removed to St. Matthew's Cathedral for the funeral mass as noon. Richard Cardinal Cushing, Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, will be the celebrant.
The president is expected to be buried near his infant son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, in the family plot in Brookline, Mass., his birthplace.
The late president's family was to spend an hour alone in the East Room today before receiving mourners.
President Johnson; former President Dwight D. Eisenhower; Speaker John W. McCormack, D-Mass, next in line of succession to the presidency, and Chief Justice Earl Warren were to pay their respects first.
Former President Herbert Hoover, who has been ill in recent months, will not be able to attend, but former President Harry S Truman plans to arrive in Washington tomorrow.
Members of President Kennedy's Cabinet, those in the executive branch holding presidential appointments and close personal friends were to pay their respects next with associate justices of the Supreme Court and members of the federal judiciary following.
Senators, representatives and governors of the 50 states and territories together with members of Washington's diplomatic corps, offering the formal condolences of their governments, were invited to visit the East Room between 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Thousands upon thousands of citizens were expected to file past the president's bier in the Capitol Rotunda tomorrow and Monday.
The last state funeral from the Capitol was for Sen. Robert A. Taft, R-Ohio, on Aug. 3, 1953. The late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the last chief executive to die in office, did not lie in state.
At 11 a.m. Monday, the president's body will be taken to St. Matthew's Cathedral here for a pontifical requiem mass.
A chill autumn wind rustled the branches of the stately elms lining the curving driveway at the White House when the ambulance bearing the president's body arrived from the Bethesda hospital. The red blinker lights of two accompanying police cars cast an eerie glow.
Across Pennsylvania Avenue, in Lafayette Park, hundreds watched in silence as the ambulance turned in at the heavy wrought-iron northwest gate and proceeded up the drive. Many of the spectators had been there for hours.
An honor guard of servicemen met the ambulance at the gate and marched slowly, solemnly before it to the crepe-draped north portico, their rifles at the salute. High above spotlights shone on the flag at half-staff.
Mrs. Kennedy and the attorney general walked behind the six military pallbearers who carried the coffin into the East Room. Black bunting was in place along the north wall of the chamber, largest in the Executive Mansion.
The drive from the gate to the portico was bathed in the brilliant lights of television and newsreel cameramen. The path was lined with scores of White House personnel, many in tears.
The funeral mass takes its name from the opening words of the ceremony, "Requiem eternam dona eis, domina ..." (Eternal rest grant until him, O Lord...).
Cardinal Cushing, who is celebrating the mass, is a longtime friend of the president and the man who performed his wedding ceremony in 1953.
The Most Rev. Patrick J. O'Boyle, archbishop of Washington, was flying back from the Ecumenical Council in Rome to assist Cardinal Cushing at the solemn rites.
The funeral mass, the saddest of all the age-old rituals of the church, does not usually include a eulogy.
At one point, the priest, clad in the black vestments of mourning, will stand near the head of the casket and intone:
"O God, whose property it is always to have mercy and to spare, we humbly beseech thee for the soul of thy servant, John, which today now has been taken out of this world, that thou deliver it not into the hands of the enemy nor forget it forever; but command the holy angels to receive it, and lead it home to heaven; so that, inasmuch as it has believed and hoped in thee, it may not suffer the pains of hell, but may have everlasting joys."
Just before the casket bearing the body of the president is carried from the church, the celebrant of the funeral mass will address him, making the sign of the cross as he does so.
"May the angels lead thee into paradise. May the martyrs receive thee at thy coming and lead thee into the holy city of Jerusalem; may the choir of angels receive thee and mayest thou have eternal rest with Lazarus who once was poor."
There will be no flowers on the altar at St. Matthew's.