Sad but jubilant crowds held centre-stage along with the simple wooden coffin of Pope John Paul II at his funeral on Friday 8 April.
The pope and his pilgrim people have been the protagonists of this intense week of mourning in Rome, sidelining the imposing array of cardinals and heads of state in front of St Peters basilica. Several times the clapping and the chanting of John Paul, John Paul, Santo Subito (make him a saint now) broke into the Mass and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was forced to wait. And when the coffin was turned to face the square for the last time before it disappeared into the dark of the basilica it felt as though the crowds would never let him go. Right to the end the magic thread that bound the ordinary people to this remarkable pope held tight.
Right to the end the city of Rome also held tight to its exceptional organisation, to its hospitality, to its unflappable calm and to its sheer good humour. As a little old woman hurtled down a street shouting for her husband she was afraid of losing in the crowds a policeman shouted after her good naturedly: Dont worry dear, youll find plenty more where he came from. A policeman standing on one of the main access roads for VIPs and their escorts warned people off the tarmac with a cheery: Clear the way for Schumacher. A funeral fit for a pope it certainly was, but even more it was a funeral fit for this pope, John Paul II.