ROME – The College of Cardinals will meet April 18 to begin the process of electing a new pope, the Vatican said Wednesday as final funeral arrangements for Pope John Paul II (search) continued.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls (search) said the late pope did not release the name of the cardinal he secretly appointed. He said the cardinals read John Paul's 15-page testament, written in Polish, and would release the text on Thursday.
Meanwhile, mourners were streaming past John Paul's crimson-robed remains at the rate of 600,000 a day in an almost round-the-clock procession through St. Peter's Basilica, city authorities said. People face a 24-hour wait as things stand, said Luca Spoletini, a spokesman for the Civil Defense department.
Free live streaming video of the pope's funeral at 4 a.m. EDT on FOXNews.com.
More than 1 million people have already filed past the body of John Paul, who is lying in state at St. Peter's Basilica. Some who braved the colder temperatures overnight were given blankets and later were given water when temperatures soared during the day. People are filing in to the basilica at a rate of about 15,000-18,000 people an hour.
The crush of pilgrims on the road leading to the Vatican is expected to rise sharply when an expected 2 million Poles arrive in Rome for Friday's funeral of the Polish-born pontiff.
Officials will block off the line starting at around 10 p.m. Wednesday, and maybe even earlier, Spoletini said.
Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, who spent years working at the Vatican and was in St. Peter's Square for three other papal funerals, called the outpouring for John Paul the most dramatic he has witnessed.
"This is the fourth funeral for a pope that I personally participated in. I think this exceeds everything," he said. "This is the most extraordinary thing that ever happened."
Italy was calling in extra police to the capital and planned to seal off much of the Eternal City on Friday to protect a VIP contingent that will include dozens of heads of state from around the world. President Bush and the first lady, former President Clinton, former President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will represent the United States. A bipartisan group of U.S. House and Senate leaders -- seven Republicans and seven Democrats -- also will make the trip.
Bush and his predecessors arrived in Rome on Wednesday and viewed the pontiff's body soon after their arrival. The U.S. officials later greeted the cardinals.
The former President Bush told reporters traveling to Rome with the delegation aboard Air Force One that the pope "was unforgettable."
Some news outlets reported that during the pope's Friday funeral services, Bush will be seated next to Iran's president. FOX News has not yet confirmed those reports.
Lawmakers in John Paul's homeland of Poland honored him as a national hero on Wednesday with prayers, eulogies and praise for his support of the pro-democracy opposition that peacefully ended communist rule there in 1989.
On the parliament chamber's podium, a black sash was draped across the white-and-red banners of Poland's national colors. A portrait of the pope and an ornamented armchair from which he addressed lawmakers in June 1999 stood nearby.
"Poland is crying over the loss of her most outstanding son," parliament speaker Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told an assembly of the upper and lower houses attended by President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Marek Belka and senior Roman Catholic clergy.
"United by sadness and pain, Poles honor the memory of a wonderful, clever man and an outstanding pope," he said. "The man is gone, but his ideas and thoughts remain."
After the assembly watched a video of the 1999 speech, prayers for the pope's soul to rest in peace rose from the floor and lawmakers observed a minute of silence.
Choosing a Pope
In preparation for the conclave, Navarro-Valls said cardinals would celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. on April 18, then be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel in the early afternoon. According to church law, prelates are expected to hold one ballot on the first day of a conclave.
The date for the conclave was set on the third day of meetings of cardinals who have flocked to Rome for Friday's funeral and burial of John Paul. Navarro-Valls ruled out that the late pope's body might be brought to St. John Lateran basilica, across Rome, before it is buried, as was done for Pope Pius XII when he died in 1958.
John Paul's spiritual testament, read Wednesday, was a 15-page document written in his native Polish over the course of his pontificate starting in 1979, a year after he was elected.
It did not name the mystery cardinal he created in 2003, Navarro-Valls said, ending speculation that a last-minute cardinal might join in the April 18 start of the conclave.
The reading of John Paul's testament was unlikely to influence the choice of the 117 cardinals who will cast ballots for the next head of the 1 billion-strong church. The number of cardinal electors under 80 and thus eligible to vote is 117, but only 116 will enter the conclave after the Philippines Embassy to the Holy See confirmed that Cardinal Jaime Sin, 76, was too ill to attend. Sin had been one of only three cardinal electors who also took part in the 1978 conclave to elect John Paul.
The documents also did not reveal the name of a cardinal John Paul said he named in 2003 but never publicly identified, ending speculation that a last-minute cardinal might join the conclave.
The name of the cardinal was held "in pectore," or "in the heart" — a formula that has been used when a pope wants to appoint a cardinal in a country where the church is oppressed.
Navarro-Valls also said that with huge crowds already converging on Rome, the Vatican could not meet the requests — "by Romans and non-Romans" — for a viewing at what is Rome's cathedral. Instead, John Paul will be buried immediately after the funeral in the grotto under St. Peter's Basilica.
In a major change to a centuries-old practice of electing a new pope, the Vatican has said it planned to ring bells in addition to sending up white smoke to announce that a new pope has been chosen.
Black smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel signals no decision has been made after a papal ballot, while white smoke means a pope has been elected.
In the past, it has sometimes been hard to tell whether the smoke from the Vatican chimney was white or black. "This time we plan to ring the bells to make the election of the pope clearer," Archbishop Piero Marini said Tuesday.
In another change from past papal elections, cardinals voting in the conclave will have access to all of Vatican City during the election, as opposed to being sequestered in the Sistine Chapel, Marini said.
A Ceremonious Burial
John Paul, who died Saturday at 84, made his wish known "to be buried in the ground," said Marini, a longtime aide as papal master of ceremonies.
Marini said John Paul would be buried with a white silk veil on his face, his body clad in liturgical vestments and the white miter. Keeping with tradition, his remains will be placed inside three coffins — wood, zinc and wood — a design meant to slow down the decomposition process.
A small bag of commemorative medals issued over the course of his 26-year pontificate, as well as a sealed document featuring a brief description in Latin of John Paul's life, will be buried with him, Marini said.
He said Polish wishes will go unfulfilled that soil from the pope's native country would be placed in the coffin.
In other developments, John Paul's personal physician was quoted as telling La Repubblica newspaper that John Paul "passed away slowly, with pain and suffering which he endured with great human dignity."
"The Holy Father could not utter a single word before passing away," Dr. Renato Buzzonetti was quoted as saying. "Just as happened in the last days he could not speak, he was forced to silence."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.