WILL FOLLOW ANCIENT, UNIQUE RITE
Vatican, Apr. 06 (CWNews.com) - The funeral Mass for Pope John Paul
II will be held in St. Peter's Basilica on Friday morning, April 8,
at 10. The details of the unique ceremony-- which is expected to
last 3 hours-- are laid out in the apostolic constitution, Universi
Dominici Gregis , promulgated by Pope John Paul in 1996.
That document, setting the procedures for the burial of one Pontiff
and the election of a successor, stipulates that a Pope's funeral,
should be held between 4 and 6 days after his death.
Pope John Paul died in the evening of April 2, so his funeral will
occur on the last day of that period. The Catholic Church has a
special rite for the burial of a Roman Pontiff. As dean of the
College of Cardinals, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will preside at the
funeral Mass. A massive congregation is expected. More than 200
world leaders have already announced their plans to attend, and the
city of Rome is bracing for a crowd that could number up to 5
million people. Giant video screens have been set up on the roads
around the Vatican, so that the ceremony can be seen by the vast
majority, who will not be able to enter the Vatican basilica.
The funeral Mass is preceded by a short ceremony in which the Pope's
coffin is seal. First the body of the deceased Pope, which has been
lying on public view in the basilica, will be placed in a cypress
coffin. After a short period of prayer, the master of liturgical
ceremonies, Archbishop Piero Marini, and the late Pope's private
secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, will draw a white silk
cloth over the Pope's face. Then the camerlengo, Cardinal Eduardo
Martinez Somalo, will bless the body with holy water.
Next Archbishop Marini will observe an old Vatican tradition,
putting a small purse into the coffin at the Pope's feet, containing
specimens of the coins that were struck by the Vatican during his
pontificate. Then the coffin will be sealed, in the presence of
several official witnesses: among them will be the camerlengo,
Cardinal Martinez Somalo; the archpriest of the Vatican basilica,
Cardinal Francesco Marchisano; the vicar of the Diocese of Rome,
Cardinal Camillo Ruini; the former Secretary of State, Cardinal
Angelo Sodano; his sostituto or deputy, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri;
the prefect of the papal household, Bishop James Michael Harvey.
The funeral itself will then begin with a solemn procession,
including the lectors, clerics, and deacons who will participate in
the ceremony, as well as the cardinals and patriarchs who will
concelebrate-- virtually all of the cardinals who are present in
Rome. The procession will enter the Vatican basilica slowly,
accompanied by Gregorian chant. The coffin will be placed on the
floor in front of the main altar. The Paschal candle will burn
beside it, a symbol of the Resurrection. There will also be a large
crucifix, and an open Bible.
The concelebrating prelates, vested in red, will assemble behind the
altar, facing the congregation. To one side, near the altar, will
assembled the secular dignitaries attending the service, seated
according to diplomatic protocol: the heads of state and heads of
government, members of the diplomatic corps, and representatives of
international organization. Opposite them, on the other side of the
altar, will be the representatives of other religious groups, as
well as the priests and religious of the Vatican basilica.
After the Mass, in which Cardinal Ratzinger will deliver the homily,
the German cardinal will lead the final prayers for John Paul II.
After circling the coffin with holy water and incense, he will read
the prescribed prayers of the ritual: the commendation of the soul
of the deceased Pontiff. This prayer is followed by the Litany of
the Saints. Then the members of the hierarchy-- patriarchs,
cardinals, archbishops, metropolitans, and bishops-- file past the
coffin to pay their final respects.
The coffin is then carried to the place of burial, in the Vatican
grottos, in another procession, accompanied by the singing of the
Magnificat. This is a much smaller procession-- due in part to the
limitations of space in the grottos. The participants will roughly
the same people who witnessed the closing of the coffin: the
top-ranking prelates of the Holy See, officials of the Vatican
basilica, and members of the Pope's household.
The camerlengo leads the burial service, another rite surrounded
with Vatican tradition. First the Pope's cypress coffin is wrapped
in red ribbons, which are imprinted with the seals of the pontifical
household. Then the coffin is placed within another metal coffin,
which is immediately sealed. This metal coffin, engraved with a
cross and the late Pope's coat of arms, is then deposited into a
third, oak coffin.
The notary of the Vatican basilica then reads the formal notice of
the burial, in the presence of the witnesses. The camerlengo and the
prefect of the pontifical household sing the document, formally
certifying the burial.
John Paul II will be buried in the ground, in the oratory of St.
Longinus, near the spot where St. Peter's tomb is located. His grave
will be marked by a simple, inclined, marble marker bearing his
The ritual for the burial of a Pope includes three "stations." The
first, to be held "in the house of the deceased Pontiff," includes
the certification of death, the exposition of the body for
veneration by prelates (which has already taken place in the
Clementine Hall of the apostolic palace), and a first series of
prescribed prayers. The second "station," in the Vatican basilica,
includes the procession to St. Peter's and the funeral Mass. The
burial service is the third and final "station."