The Mourning After

The Mourning After

The Mourning After

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 4 2005 4:12 AM

The Mourning After

Everybody leads with the first viewing of Pope John Paul II's body and the massive outpouring of admirers who gathered for the open-air Requiem in St. Peter's Square Sunday. John Paul's body lay in state inside the papal palace for viewing by cardinals and other officials. The ceremony was broadcast to the outside world for the first time in the history of the Catholic church.

Public viewing of the pope will begin Monday. Rome is preparing to host 2 million mourners who are expected to show up for the still unscheduled funeral. As USA Today notes prominently, President Bush will be the first American president to attend a papal funeral.

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Officials announced the cause of death Sunday: septic shock, an infection causing organ failure and cardiovascular system collapse. In a statement, the Vatican said Parkinson's disease, among other causes, accounted for the pope's decline. It was the first time the Vatican acknowledged John Paul had Parkinson's, though for 15 years outside doctors have generally recognized that to be the case. The Los Angeles Times points out on its front page that the pope's deliberate decision to not enter a hospital or seek aggressive life-saving treatments in his final days highlights questions surrounding Catholicism's balance of the sanctity of life and the acceptance of death.

Small controversies over the elaborate and formal process following the pope's death are starting to arise. The Washington Post notes high in its lead story that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who led the mass in St. Peter's Square Sunday, referred to John Paul as "the Great" in his written homily. Only two other popes in the church's history have been called "the Great," and the Post says there is some confusion because although Sodano did not say this, the term was in his written remarks, and Vatican rules dictate that what is written is official. Sodano committed a breach of protocol immediately following John Paul's death when he told an archbishop to announce the news in St. Peter's Square, when in fact the church rules specify that a different Vatican official should make the announcement (that man, expecting to make the statement himself, heard it on television).

Steps toward new leadership have begun, with many of the top Vatican officials stepping down (as required). The new pope will choose cardinals to lead his administration. The WP has a play-by-play of how the election of the new pope will proceed. As the New York Times notes as part of its banner headline, there are "tough choices ahead" for the church. Even if the cardinals elect a leader with as much celebrity and charisma as John Paul, he may not have the appropriate qualifications to sort out some internal problems that developed in the Vatican in recent years. While John Paul was effective at traveling and spreading his message, he was considered a lax manager, the Wall Street Journal points out. Challenges his successor will face include the shortage of priests and growing Catholic populations in Africa and Asia who sometimes live inharmoniously among Muslims and others.

In the NYT, Sister Helen Prejean pays tribute to the pope for his instrumental role in shaping the Catholic church's no-exception opposition to the death penalty.

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In other news, the LAT fronts—and others stuff—the selection of an Iraqi Assembly speaker. Hajim al-Hassani, an American-educated Sunni, gave up the possibility of being named to a top cabinet position by accepting the largely ceremonial post. The appointment was an important first step toward unity after days of tense negotiations; two deputies were also named.

The NYT fronts a promise by Syrian leaders to pull out "fully and completely" from Lebanon by the end of the month. The statement came from the United Nations envoy to Lebanon who said he had assurances from Syria's foreign minister. Syrian leaders were quick to mention that the withdrawal would not end their country's influence in Lebanon.

According to early-morning reports, Askar Akayev, the Kyrgyz president who fled his country last month after demonstrators stormed his offices, signed a resignation agreement that will go into effect Tuesday. This was expected after hours of meetings with Kyrgyzstan's interim leadership Sunday.

New numbers from U.S. military officials indicate that 44 American soldiers were injured during the large insurgent attack on the Abu Ghraib prison on Saturday. The assault was committed by at least 40 men with car bombs, guns, and rockets. Thirteen prisoners were also wounded, and one insurgent was killed, according to authorities.

The president of the 16,000-member Michael Jackson Fan Club, a Texan legal secretary named Deborah Dannelly, is leading prayer vigils, tap dancing, and other festivities at a rally on behalf of the pop star. She almost missed the activities because her father suffered a stroke and is in poor health. She said the sudden illness was "almost a wake-up call to say you have to stand by the people that you love," and so Dannelly decided to leave her father and travel to Jackson's trial.