Not even Rome’s oppressive heat can dissuade the hundreds of people that wait each morning in Saint Peter’s Square, intent on visiting the tomb of John Paul II.
The number of people visiting the late Pope’s tomb is so considerable, it triples the amount of daily visitors to the Vatican Museum.
Patiently, they wait in the long lines to enter. A statue of Saint Peter welcomes the visitors as they enter in groups of fifty.
“Sometimes there are less people waiting to enter, but usually it is a continuous flow. You would be very lucky to not have to wait in the line.”
The long white corridors and marble vaults lead to the tombs of former leaders. These tombs give visitors an indication of the Church’s long history.
One of the more prominent tombs is that of John Paul I- the Pope who only spent 33 days in his position, but whose influence is still felt today.
The tomb of Pope Paul VI, organiser of the influential Second Vatican Council.
And of Pope Paul XI, who signed the Lantern Pact and established the state of Vatican City.
Next to the these tombs is the final resting place for Pope John Paul II. The simple design of this tomb reflects the humility characteristic of Karol Wojtyla.
For Catholics and non-Catholics alike, the mood is intense. But visitors are at once calmed by an atmosphere that is both welcoming and peaceful.
In silence, some visitors take pictures. Others pray at the foot of the tomb, while the faithful adorn the Holy Father’s grave with cards, rosaries, and photos.
A barrier prevents visitors from touching the tomb, an opportunity seized by the late Pope’s personal secretary, Stanislaw Dziwisz.
In a moment of candid emotion, the Archbishop fell to his knee and kissed the marble above the Pope’s final resting place.
It is clear that the Pope’s death has left a void that will be difficult to fill. The impact of his life is evident in the number of visitors from all over the world who come to see his tomb.
During his pontificate Pope John Paul made hundreds of trips to places across the globe. With his death, it is the faithful who travel to see him, and to pay their final respects to the beloved leader.