St. Peter's Basilica Closes Its Doors

The doors to St. Peter's Basilica (search) were closed Thursday after four days of visits by pilgrims streaming into the building to pay their last respects to Pope John Paul II (search).

Authorities had earlier closed the line Wednesday night in preparation for Friday's funeral, which was going to take place amid heightened security because international leaders from more than 100 countries will be in attendance. They also closed the basilica for a few hours overnight for cleaning.

Free live streaming video of the pope's funeral at 4 a.m. EDT on

By the time the basilica and line reopened on Thursday, many who had waited hours for a chance to spend a few seconds briefly viewing the pope's crimson-robed body had given up and left. But thousands of Poles held aloft red-and-white Polish flags, adding a shimmering stripe of color to the procession.

Officials said Thursday morning's line was moving quicker, with the wait dramatically shortened to just a few hours. But they announced that the basilica doors would be shut at 10 p.m., making it likely that the line would be closed later in the day to spare pilgrims too far back from waiting in vain. On Wednesday, some in the throng had waited 24 hours to get inside.

Later Thursday, the Vatican (search) released the text of John Paul's spiritual testament —- a 15-page document the late pontiff began writing in his native Polish in 1979, the year after he was elected pope. The text was released in Italian and Polish.

The Vatican also released the series of Masses that will be celebrated during the nine days of mourning that begin on Friday with the pope's funeral. Among the prelates celebrating the Masses is Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as archbishop of Boston amid the sex abuse scandal and now heads the St. Mary Major basilica — one of the most important churches in Rome.

Officials on Wednesday sent text messages on Italian cellular phone networks that warned subscribers: "St. Peters full." Later that night they erected barricades to prevent people from joining the line.

At one point during the night, pilgrims who had been cut off began chanting, "Open, Open." As the line reopened, police said pilgrims had to wait only about three hours before entering the basilica. People were sleeping in the streets, convents and on floors wherever they could find space.

"We stay in the street, we stay in the circus maximus. We stay everywhere," said one pilgrim, Marco Rosa.

The line was filled with Polish flags on Thursday as some of the 2 million Poles expected to travel from John Paul's native country arrived. The pope is credited with helping to end communism in Poland and unite Europe.

President Bush was joined by his father, former President George H.W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton in giving a private tribute Wednesday night, kneeling at the side of John Paul's bier and folding their hands in silent prayer.

The Bushes will attend a reception with American cardinals and bishops on Thursday. Around 40 people are expected to attend that event. Laura Bush on Thursday also attended a private 45-minute tour of St. John's at Laterna, which is one of four Basilicas where John Paul use to say Mass.

Photo Essay: World Mourns Pope's Death

They were among the monarchs, presidents and heads of government from more than 100 countries who have begun arriving for a funeral Friday that will be marked by solemn pageantry. John Paul died on Saturday at age 84.

Italian authorities readied anti-aircraft rocket launchers and took other security measures to protect the dignitaries converging on Rome for the funeral. Naval boats were patrolling the Tiber River that marks the boundary of Vatican City, and missile-armed ships were guarding the coastline. Some 15,000 police and officials will patrol the area around St. Peter's. Rome will be closed to general car traffic.

So far, the faithful have been able to view the pope without metal detectors and few body searches.

Already, pilgrims were staking out spots near the Vatican for the funeral.

Millions more were expected to watch the ceremony on giant screens erected around Rome.

And whether or not they were able to file past the pope's body, many of the pilgrims said just being in Rome was enough.

"We are lucky," said Agnieszka Jankowska, who traveled 32 hours from Torun, Poland. "Just to be here and to honor him, to say goodbye, and to accompany him on his journey home."

Pope's Testament Released

John Paul suggested in his last testament that he considered the possibility of resigning in 2000, when the Roman Catholic Church began its new millennium and he turned 80, according to his testament released Thursday.

The document also said he had left no material property and asked that all his personal notes be burned. It mentioned only two living people: his personal secretary and the chief rabbi of Rome who welcomed him to Rome's synagogue in 1986.

The Polish-born pope, who died Saturday at the age of 84, also had considered the possibility of a funeral in Poland, but later left it up to the College of Cardinals to decide. The pope will be buried under St. Peter's Basilica on Friday after a funeral in the square.

Writing in 2000, the pope, who suffered from Parkinson's disease and crippling hip and knee ailments, suggested the time was one of apparent torment for him, mentioning the 1981 attempt on his life. He called his survival a "miracle."

He said he hoped the Lord "would help me to recognize how long I must continue this service to which he called me the day of 16 October, 1978."

He also prayed at the time that he would have the "necessary strength" to continue his mission as long as he was serving as pope.

As they planned the transition from John Paul's eventful 26-year reign, the College of Cardinals (search) set April 18 as the start of its conclave to elect a successor, a papal election with new rules and new technologies.

With 3,500 accredited journalists watching, the 116 cardinals expected to chose the next pope will be mindful of the warning in a document by John Paul to abide by their vow of secrecy — or face "grave penalties according to the judgment of the future pope."

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the cardinals would celebrate a morning Mass on April 18, then be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel in the early afternoon for their first secret ballot.

Italian news services reported Thursday that 140 of the 184 cardinals were in Rome Thursday afternoon, local time. Father Raniero Cantalamessa of Italy and Cardinal Tomas Spidlik of the Czech Republic have been chosen as the ones to lead the cardinals' meditations on electing a pope. Spidlik will lead the Mass before the conclave.

In past conclaves, the so-called "princes of the church" were locked in the Apostolic Palace, crammed into tiny makeshift cubicles without running water and limited toilet facilities.

John Paul, in a 1996 change, said the cardinals would be housed in a hotel within the Vatican walls that he had built. Each cardinal now has a private room and bath.

Also unlike previous conclaves, the electors would be free to roam the Vatican, though they are forbidden from communicating with anyone outside. The Sistine Chapel and other areas will be swept for any electronic listening devices.

According to church law, prelates are expected to hold at least one ballot on the first day of a conclave. If no one gets the required two-thirds majority after about 12 days, cardinals may change procedure and elect the pope by simple majority.

Indonesian Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, the archbishop of Jakarta, said Thursday he hoped the College of Cardinals would keep John Paul's legacy in mind when they enter the conclave.

"We hope that the man they appointed will be more or less like him," he told reporters as he entered the Vatican for Thursday's pre-conclave meetings.

John Paul's spiritual document did not name the mystery cardinal he created in 2003, Navarro-Valls said. John Paul created the "in pectore" or "in the heart" cardinal in his last consistory. The formula is used when the pope wants to name a cardinal from a country where the church is oppressed.

The number of cardinal electors under age 80 and thus eligible to vote is 117. On Wednesday, the Philippines Embassy to the Holy See said Cardinal Jaime Sin, 76, was too ill to attend. However, on Thursday, Sin's office in Manila said the cardinal was hoping to attend despite his poor health.

FOX News' Greg Palkot and The Associated Press contributed to this report.