Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat will lead the Indian delegation at
the funeral of Pope John Paul II at St Peter?s Basilica in Vatican City, it
was announced here yesterday.
External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh, Kerala MP K Francis George and a
representative of the ruling Congress will also form part of the delegation.
Another delegation from the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) that
includes three cardinals will represent India?s 17mn Catholics at the
The federal government has already declared a three-day state mourning as a
mark of respect to the Pope, the only pontiff to have visited India twice.
The governments of Kerala and West Bengal, both with large Catholic
populations, have announced official mourning for nine days.
Flags atop government buildings here and across the country will fly at
half-mast throughout the mourning period.
Schools run by the Catholics all over the country were closed yesterday.
Most of them hoisted black flags in front of their buildings as a sign of
All Catholic schools here will be closed on the day of the Pope?s funeral,
expected to be held any day between tomorrow and Friday.
The CBCI delegation will include Archbishop Ivan Diaz of Mumbai, Telesphore
Toppo of Ranchi and Varkey Vithayathil of Thiruvananthapuram.
Archbishop Diaz is thought to be a contender for the pontificate.
The three will also enter the 120-member College of Cardinals that will
elect John Paul II?s successor. Only 117 cardinals will, however, be
eligible to vote as three of them are over the age of 80.
Major Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios of the Syro-Malankara Church, Sister
Nirmala of the Missionaries of Charity and Agra Bishop Oswald Gracias will
also be part of the CBCI delegation. The Indian Catholic church is divided
into three denominations - Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and Latin.
? Indo-Asian News Service