Thousands of mourners, many clutching candles and flowers or waving Mexican flags, lined principal avenues in Mexico's capital late Thursday as an empty popemobile rolled by in tribute to Pope John Paul II.

The vehicle, used by the pope during four of his five visits to this country, cruised slowly from the residence of the papal nuncio in southeast Mexico City north to the Basilica of Guadalupe, where John Paul canonized Indian saint Juan Diego during his final trip to Mexico three years ago.

With several hundred people awaiting its arrival there, officials at the basilica planned to hold a late-night Mass, hours before the actual papal funeral was to begin in Rome.

Ringed by police cars and motorcycles and tailed by a few faithful on bicycles, the white popemobile, about the size of a small mobile home and fitted with a large picture of a smiling John Paul on each side, drove along, its interior light blazing but no one riding inside.