VATICAN CITY – Mourning pilgrims packed churches around Rome on Sunday to remember Pope John Paul II in services presided over by cardinals, who praised the late pope for touching hearts worldwide but were careful not to stray from scripted homilies.
The throngs of pilgrims who attended the late pope's Friday funeral flowed out of the Eternal City, leaving scattered pockets of tourists Sunday in a quiet, rainy St. Peter's Square (search). Some gazed forlornly up at the window where the pope traditionally appeared to greet the faithful on Sundays.
On Saturday, 130 cardinals voted unanimously to stop speaking publicly to protect the integrity of the conclave to choose the next pope. Acknowledging an era of continuous news updates and constant speculation, Vatican (search) spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls called the media ban an "act of responsibility."
He asked journalists not to ask the cardinals for interviews and said they should not take the prelates' silence as an act of "discourtesy."
At least two cardinals later turned down requests for interviews.
The lack of access to the cardinals was unlikely to stem the speculation about John Paul's successor, with worldwide interest peaking in what could be a tight competition between reformers and conservatives.
The cardinals will gather in the Sistine Chapel (search) to elect a successor to John Paul, who wrote in a 2002 poem that they should seek inspiration in Michelangelo's fresco depicting the Last Judgment.
"Michelangelo's vision must then speak to them," John Paul said in the poem, which he penned as part of a volume of poetic meditations published by the Vatican in 2003.
In the poem, which foreshadows the conclave to elect his successor scheduled to begin April 18, John Paul urged the red-robed "princes of the church" to draw inspiration from the magnificent fresco on the wall behind the altar.
"Those to whom the care of the legacy of the keys has been entrusted gather here, allowing themselves to be enfolded by the Sistine colors, by the vision left us by Michelangelo," he wrote.
"So it was in August, and then in October, of the memorable year of the two conclaves, and so it will be again, when the need arises after my death," he wrote.
There were two conclaves in 1978, the year John Paul became pontiff, when popes Paul VI and John Paul I died in rapid succession.
Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, presided at Mass Sunday in Rome's St. Mary Major Basilica, the church where John Paul appointed him archpriest. But he did not give the homily — an apparent indication of how seriously the cardinals were taking the order for secrecy.
On Monday, Law will lead one of the nine daily Masses for the pope at St. Peter's Basilica.
Leaders of the advocacy group the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said Saturday they were flying to Rome to protest, saying Law's presence was painful to clergy sexual abuse victims and embarrassing to Catholics.
Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in December 2002 after unsealed court records revealed he had allowed priests guilty of abusing children to move among parish assignments and had not notified the public.
New York Cardinal Edward Egan celebrated Mass at the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, where he had been consecrated as a bishop, but declined to comment afterward, citing the cardinals' agreement.
Egan, speaking in Italian, Spanish and English in his homily, thanked John Paul for his contributions to the world, saying "he touched the hearts of all."
"Please keep the Holy Father in your prayers," Egan said.
The Vatican on Saturday released photographs of the pope's tomb, a white marble slab, slightly raised off the floor and tilted, with the Latin letters IOANNES PAULUS PPII, and the dates of his 26-year reign. It also bears the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek, a common symbol with roots in early Christianity.
The grave is in the small grotto once occupied by the sarcophagus of Pope John XXIII, which was moved into the main floor of St. Peter's Basilica after his 2000 beatification because so many pilgrims wanted to visit his tomb.
Navarro-Valls said 115 prelates will participate in the conclave beginning April 18 — all the cardinals under the age of 80 except for Cardinal Jaime L. Sin of the Philippines and Cardinal Alfonso Antonio Suarez Rivera of Mexico, who are too sick to attend.
John Paul took the name of an additional cardinal — kept secret apparently to protect him from a government that represses religious activity — to the grave.
Cardinal Karl Lehmann was quoted by the German newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung as saying race and background will play a role in the choice of the next pope, but there were no clear favorites and "probably also no firm alliances."
"One must be moved through voting, contacts and discussion to a consensus," he was quoted as saying.
John Paul was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Some cardinals have called for a Latin
American pope to reflect the huge number of Catholics in the region. Others have said the papacy should return to an Italian, while there are contenders from elsewhere in Europe, as well as from Nigeria and India.
St. Peter's Square, which was packed during John Paul's funeral by 250,000 pilgrims and dignitaries from 138 countries, was quiet Sunday, although a long line formed to get into the basilica. Visitors carrying backpacks, folded flags and rolled-up sleeping bags headed for train stations and parking lots on the outskirts of the city. Few stayed around to see the sights.
"We have come here only to pray," said Ula Maciejowska, 33, who was heading home to Oswiecim, Poland. "We will come another time to shop."
Rome's Mayor, Walter Veltroni, said Rome's population of 2.6 million doubled over the past week, giving a lower figure than earlier police estimates of 4 million visitors. He said 1.3 million people filed past John Paul's body.