Jump to content

Death and funeral of Pope John Paul II

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Death and funeral of Pope John Paul II
  • 2 April 2005; 19 years ago (2005-04-02) (death)
  • 8 April 2005; 19 years ago (2005-04-08) (funeral)
ParticipantsThe College of Cardinals (led by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), various dignitaries worldwide

On 2 April 2005, Pope John Paul II died at the age of 84. His funeral was held on 8 April, followed by the novendiales devotional in which the Catholic Church observed nine days of mourning.[1]

In February 1996 Pope John Paul II had introduced revisions to papal funeral ceremonies, including changes to repose and burial formalities. These revisions were enacted through the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici gregis, and applied to his own funeral.[2]

The funeral had around four million mourners gathering in Rome in the wake of his death.[3][4]

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople was in the honorary first seat in the section reserved for churches not in full communion with the Catholic Church. This was the first time an ecumenical patriarch attended a papal funeral since the East–West Schism.[5]



On 2 April 2005, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office, announced that John Paul II had died that day, at 84 years old, at 9:37 p.m. in his private apartment.[6]

Rite of papal death


When John Paul II died, the Camerlengo Eduardo Martínez Somalo removed the Pope's Ring of the Fisherman from his finger, then ceremonially crushed it with the ceremonial silver hammer in the presence of members of the College of Cardinals.[7]

While his predecessors had been embalmed after death, the Vatican claimed that Pope John Paul II was not embalmed and lay in state without normal treatment for preservation, which is evident by the grey colour taken on by the body. Also, it was customary for popes to have their organs removed after death. Pope Pius X ended this practice during his reign, and the wish of some Poles that John Paul II's heart be buried in Poland was not obliged.[1]

The body of Pope John Paul II exposed to the faithful in the Vatican Basilica.

Mass of Repose


A first Mass of Repose, such as is offered for anyone baptised in the Catholic Church, commemorating the sending of the soul to God, was led by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Cardinal Secretary of State, on 3 April 2005, the day after the death of the Pope. That Sunday service coincided with the celebration of the Feast of Divine Mercy, a memorial feast instituted by Pope John Paul II himself.[8] The service was followed by the recitation of the Regina Caeli, at which Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, Substitute of the Secretariat of State read out the words that John Paul II himself wrote for the occasion and was due to recite.[9]

Rite of Visitation

Pope John Paul II's body is laid in St. Peter's Basilica for private visitation by Vatican officials and foreign dignitaries. Among the Americans in the photograph are then US President George W. Bush, his father George H. W. Bush, his wife Laura Bush, and former president Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card.

The body of John Paul II was dressed in his vestments and moved to the Clementine Hall on the third level (considered the second floor) of the Apostolic Palace on 3 April.[1]

By 6 April, a million people had seen John Paul II's remains lying in state in St. Peter's Basilica. An estimated total of four million people, in addition to the over three million residents of Rome, were expected to make the pilgrimage to see the Pope.

Requiem Mass

The Papal gentlemen carry the coffin into St. Peter's Square. Standing in the front row are, from left to right, President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan (represented as China), First Lady Marisa Letícia da Silva and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, President Georgi Parvanov of Bulgaria, President Borislav Paravac of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and First Lady Elvira Salinas de Mesa and President Carlos Mesa of Bolivia.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger celebrated the Mass of Requiem on 8 April at 10:00 am CEST (08:00 UTC), by virtue of his office as Dean of the College of Cardinals.[10]


The placement of the Book of the Gospels by Archbishop Piero Marini (left) and Konrad Krajewski (right) upon the casket of Pope John Paul II, a typical act during the funeral of a Catholic bishop.

As the Mass of Requiem began, the doors of St. Peter's Basilica were locked with dignitaries asked to stand outside the church. Only the College of Cardinals and the patriarchs and presiding metropolitans of the Eastern Catholic Churches were allowed inside for a private ceremony in which John Paul was placed in a cypress coffin, the first of three.[11] Before being laid in the coffin, Archbishops Marini and Stanisław Dziwisz had the honour of placing a white silk veil over the face of the pope (a tradition started by Leo XIII). It was his last official act of service to the pope as his papal secretary.[5]

The front of St. Peter's Square was filled with cardinals, bishops, priests, and foreign dignitaries



After kissing the text of the Book of the Gospels, Cardinal Ratzinger stood before the congregants to offer the homily which included references to the life and service of Pope John Paul II. He spoke in Italian, first greeting the many political figures and religious leaders that had gathered, and then told the story of how the young Karol had answered the Lord's call, and became a priest after the persecution of the Nazis, the answer of the command: "Follow me!". Cardinal Ratzinger also told of John Paul II's life as a bishop, cardinal, and pope, frequently applying scripture to the pope's life. Finally, he told of the pope's devotion to Mary and the Divine Mercy of God. The cardinal's last words were about the end of Pope John Paul II's life: "We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ".[12]

Some construed the ending of the homily to mean that the pope had already entered into heaven, and had become a saint.[13]

Borne on the shoulders of the Papal gentlemen, the coffin of Pope John Paul II is taken from the altar for the Rite of Interment. Archbishop Piero Marini, then-Master of Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies, preceded the casket.

Rite of Interment


The people of Poland had wished for the heart of John Paul II to be removed from his body and transferred to Wawel Cathedral to be buried alongside the greatest of Poland's monarchs and National heroes. Cardinal Martínez Somalo said that the request would not be obliged, as per the dead Pope's wish not to have any parts of his body removed during preparation for the funeral.[14]

Pope John Paul II was buried in this underground crypt. His remains were removed from this crypt in 2011 in preparation for his beatification.

Cardinal Martínez Somalo, Camerlengo of the Roman Church, then presided over the Rite of Interment. It was a private service witnessed only by the highest-ranking members of the College of Cardinals. As is custom, Pope John Paul II was entombed in three nested coffins. The cypress coffin was sealed and tied with three red silk ribbons.[15]

The unified coffin was lowered into the ground, as the Pope requested, and covered with a plain stone slab featuring his name and dates of his pontificate. Pope John Paul II asked that his burial be like that of Pope Paul VI, not in an elaborate sarcophagus and ornate above-ground tomb, but in "bare earth".[16] His remains lay in this tomb for six years before it was exhumed to prepare for his beatification in 2011.


Dignitaries from around the world pray during the funeral; as seen: King Albert II & Queen Paola of Belgium, Prince Henrik of Denmark, President Jacques Chirac of France and Ms. Bernadette Chirac, President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush of the United States, President Arnold Rüütel of Estonia, and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines





One of the most controversial honourees was Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, Archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, scheduled to preside a novendial on 11 April. During his tenure as Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law was accused of having mishandled cases of sexual abuse at the hands of diocesan priests. The event sparked the nationwide Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in the dioceses of the United States.[17]

Several members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) flew to Rome to protest saying Cardinal Law's place of honour was painful to sexual abuse victims and embarrassing to Catholics. Just as the group's members arrived at St. Peter's Basilica, led by founder Barbara Blaine, police officers escorted them outside the confines of St. Peter's Square. Blaine was unable to pass out fliers to people walking into the Mass offered by Cardinal Law.[17]

Blaine had earlier told reporters in a press conference, "We are the sons and daughters of the Catholic family who were raped, sodomized and sexually molested by priests. At this time, we should be able to focus on the Holy Father's death, instead of Cardinal Law's prominence."[17]

See also



  1. ^ a b c "CNN Transcript from 4 April 2005". Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  2. ^ "Universi Dominici gregis". Archived from the original on 6 May 2007. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  3. ^ "Millions mourn Pope at history's largest funeral". The Independent. London. 8 April 2005. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  4. ^ Holmes, Stephanie (9 April 2005). "City of Rome celebrates 'miracle'". BBC News. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  5. ^ a b "American Morning report, April 8, 2005". International Wire. 8 April 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  6. ^ "Pope John Paul II Dies at 84". ABC News. 2 April 2005. Retrieved 1 January 2023.
  7. ^ "Europe | Pontiff's seal and ring destroyed". BBC News. 16 April 2005. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  8. ^ "Eucharistic Concelebration for the Repose of the Soul of Pope John Paul II: Homily of Card. Angelo Sodano". The Holy See. 3 April 2005. Archived from the original on 25 December 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  9. ^ "Regina Cæli, 3 April 2005, Eucharistic celebration for the repose of the soul of His Holiness John Paul II - Divine Mercy Sunday | John Paul II". www.vatican.va. Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  10. ^ "Chicago Tribune". Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  11. ^ "BBC 8 April 2005". BBC News. 8 April 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  12. ^ "Funeral mass of the Roman Pontiff John Paul II: Homily of His Eminence Card. Joseph Ratzinger". Holy See. 8 April 2005. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  13. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (12 April 2005). "Cardinals Lobby for Swift Sainthood for John Paul II". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  14. ^ Tomov, Nikola. "Preserving the Pontiff: an Account of the Body Preservation Methods Used by the Roman Catholic Church" (PDF). Acta Morphologica et Anthropologica. 25 (1–2): 117–121.
  15. ^ "World | Europe | Pope buried in St Peter's crypt". BBC News. 8 April 2005. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  16. ^ Willey, David (13 April 2005). "World | Europe | Venerable resting place for the Pope". BBC News. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  17. ^ a b c "BBC: Victims protest against Rome Mass". BBC News. 11 April 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2008.

Further reading