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Pope Presides Over Funeral Service

September 11, 2002

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VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope John Paul II presided over a funeral service Wednesday at St. Peter’s Basilica for Brazilian Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, a top Vatican official once considered a papal candidate.

Neves, a former top churchman in the world’s largest Catholic country, died Sunday at 76 after a long illness. The pope returned to the Vatican from his summer retreat south of Rome for the funeral service and to hold a weekly audience on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the chief of doctrinal orthodoxy at the Vatican, celebrated the Mass, with the pope standing to the right of the altar and Neves’ coffin.

The pontiff said Neves’ ``vision of faith helps us to live more intensely our beloved brother’s sad moment of parting from earthly life.″

``In front of the mystery of death, for a man who does not have faith, all would seem to be irreparably lost,″ the pope said. ``It is the word of Christ then that lightens the walk of life and confers value on every moment.″

Neves was archbishop of Salvador for 11 years until being called to the Vatican in 1998, when John Paul made him prefect of the influential Congregation of Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

He stepped down from both positions in 2000 because of his failing health. Vatican officials confirmed his death Sunday at a Rome clinic, where he had been hospitalized for a long-term illness.

Neves, a moderate, was ordained a priest in 1950. The pope promoted him to archbishop in 1979 and cardinal in 1988.

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