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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 April, 2005, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
City of Rome celebrates 'miracle'
By Stephanie Holmes
BBC News, Rome

An estimated four million pilgrims thronged Rome's streets

Umbrellas may have replaced the red and white of the Polish flags on St Peter's, but the Italian capital is happy and, above all, immensely proud.

For almost a week, the eyes of the world have been watching Rome as it welcomed millions of pilgrims and hundreds of heads of state to one of history's largest funerals.

Famed for its vibrant chaos, Rome managed to pull off an organisational coup that the press is calling "a small miracle".

The city, transformed into a global theatre, became the capital of the world "Caput Mundi", Il Messaggero and La Repubblica newspapers proclaim.

Patrizia Cologgi, head of the Civil Protection department that co-ordinated the event, is delighted.

"We are so relieved. We tried our best, we tried to cover all eventualities and nothing went wrong," she told the BBC News website.

"It is as though we have finally arrived at the front of the queue," she said, referring to the lengthy wait that pilgrims faced to view the body of the Pope lying in state.

"Romans showed great spirit and great solidarity."


The numbers speak for themselves.

More than a quarter of a million watched the event from within the Vatican walls.

6m euro spent on the event
300,000 watched funeral from Vatican
8,000 volunteers
4,500 pilgrim buses
200 official delegations
25 super-sized screens broadcasting events live
6 helicopters

A further 800,000 followed the funeral live on huge television screens across the capital, where 600 priests circled among the believers, distributing hosts.

Some 30,000 young pilgrims took part from a vast reception centre set up on the outskirts of Rome.

And yet, hours after the funeral had ended, many of the estimated four million pilgrims who had thronged the streets had already disappeared - whisked to stations in special buses.

Italy's state railway company said that over the last seven days no less than 850,000 passengers have travelled on the city's train network.

In honour of the travelling Pope who drew so many pilgrims, Rome's main station, Termini, is to be named after him.

Cleaning up

The morning after, the vast piazza of St Peter's had already been swept clean.

The discarded blankets, empty water bottles and sleeping bags that had made it look like a music festival venue, had been removed.

Street cleaner Adriano Tragici in Rome
This has been one of the biggest clean-up operations I've ever seen
Adriano Tragici
Rome street cleaner

Now tourists scurry across the wet piazza towards the basilica.

A small army of policemen, street cleaners, nurses, scouts and volunteers have been working all hours to sustain the city through the past week.

"We're shattered," said 25-year-old street cleaner Adriano Tragici as he collected rubbish in the shadow of St Peter's.

"We've been up since 6am today but there is plenty for us to do. This has been one of the biggest clean-up operations I've ever seen."

Working in one of the Vatican's busiest cafes, 25-year-old Mirco said the past week had been "tumultous".

"I must have made thousands of coffees - yesterday alone I got through 90 litres of milk," he said. "Thankfully now it has calmed down a bit."


Rome's mayor has been praised by international delegations and the Vatican alike for his organisation of the event.

Walter Veltroni said Romans' willingness to roll up their sleeves and get involved showed how much the city felt for Pope John Paul, an honorary citizen and Bishop of the capital.

"It was a way of thanking a Pope much-loved by Rome, who loved Rome too," he said.

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi thanked the country too.

"We've shown how efficient we can be. We've shown, once more, that when Italians believe in something they do it well."

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