Modesto Priest Attends Pope's Funeral

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(Rome, Italy)
Thursday, April 7, 2005

In a telephone conversation from Rome, Father Joseph Illo, Pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Modesto, said he embraced the opportunity to make the trip when a local family offered him a plane ticket and a place to stay. 

"The Pope is certainly my model for what it means to be a priest and a father figure, so it's like going to my father's funeral. I wouldn't want to miss it." 

Father Illo, said he was able to bypass a long line to view the Pope's body. "His body is clearly deteriorating. I think that they did not embalm him. And so his face is sinking in and there's black lines on his lips and his eyes. This is a man who has given us spiritual guidance over the last 27 years and now he's quit definitely dead and there's a big hole in the church now in the church. The Vatican is quiet and empty and there's a very strange feeling in Rome."

Illo says the authorities in Rome appear to be doing an effect job of handling the millions of people who are in the city for the funeral.

 "There weren't the crushing crowds that I expected. There were certainly crowds but it was all orderly. There were lots of bottled water everywhere, but there wasn't any police activity going on. I didn't get a sense of oppression or unruly crowds or stressing the city to its limits." 

A spokeswoman says Father Illo is the only clergy in the Stockton Diocese to make the trip to Rome for the funeral.