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Pilgrims pile into Rome

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Pilgrims pile into Rome


Rome is pulling out all the stops to try and ensure the Pope’s funeral does not become a logistical nightmare, with over two million mourners expected to converge on the Italian capital on Friday. Security is one of the biggest headaches, with world leaders in their droves expected to attend. An AWACS early warning system aircraft will enforce a no-fly zone over Rome for the event and all police leave has been cancelled with some 7,000 extra officers being drafted in.

Medical concerns for the crowds are also high, as many pilgrims will be elderly or sick, and the weather may prove too much for some. The media circus has already begun putting up its big top, with satellite dishes sprouting like mushrooms around the capital. Ten giant video screens are going up for all those who cannot make it into St Peter’s square. It seems likely the crowds will include peoples from every country on the planet, but especially large contingents are expected or already on the way from Poland and Spain. Many European tour operators and airlines are reporting a surge in bookings. To cope with the influx the Vatican is requisitioning public buildings to convert into dormitories; even the famous Circus Maximus will be opened to campers. These crowds will be filling hotels and restaurants, presenting a task of biblical proportions to those feeding them, with manna for those catering to their needs. However, from the looks on the faces of the people assembling, being here at this momentous time is worth any sacrifice. The Vatican appears to have recognised so many are coming that the Basilica in which the Pope lies in state will be open to the public virtually around the clock.
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