Interesting... articles about two most recent Popes:
Funeral ceremonies for a pope last nine days, a period called Novendiales. Details are set by the College of Cardinals, but some basic rules on handling the death of a pope were started in the 14th century because of a history of deceit, disorder and crime associated with papal deaths. Further guidelines are set by past church documents and the pope’s will.
Cardinals worldwide are formally summoned to Rome.The camerlengo locks the papal apartments for security reasons.The chamberlain finds the pope’s ring (used as a seal for documents), which will be destroyed in front of the College of Cardinals to prevent forgeries. He also drafts a death certificate. Confirming the pope’s death, the Cardinal Camerlengo — or chamberlain — may or may not follow the traditional practice of tapping the pope’s forehead with a silver mallet.
After its enbalming, the pope’s body is placed for public viewing in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican plans a Mass at 10:30 a.m today (Rome time) for Pope John Paul II. The gold papal Ring of the Fisherman shows St. Peter — the first pope — fishing in a boat. The College of Cardinals begins its daily meetings to govern the church until a new pope is elected. They will decide funeral details, destroy the papal ring and plan for the election.
Elm signifies dignity.The middle lead coffin is engraved with a skull and crossbones. Innermost cypress coffin signifies pope’s humanity.
Day 4, 5 or 6
The casket is installed in its final place in the lower crypt level of the basilica. A cypress coffin is set inside two other coffins, each with different meanings. The chamberlain may allow photographs only after the pope’s body is dressed in papal vestments. The pope’s funeral Mass is celebrated at St. Peter’s.
The next 8 days after the burial
On each of the eight days that follow, a special Mass is said. The College of Cardinals designates the basilica that will be host to each day’s funeral Mass, and the cardinal to preside. But all cardinals may “concelebrate,” or recite together, the Eucharistic Prayer.
Sources: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; “The Deaths of the Popes” by Wendy J. Reardon; Rev. Thomas J. Reese, editor in chief of America,a Catholic magazine; Catholic News Service
Funeral of John Paul II's predecessor marked by symbolism
The Orange County Register
Details of Pope John Paul II's funeral are unclear, but the funeral of his predecessor was quite interesting.
The body of Pope John Paul I, who led the Catholic church for less than a month before dying of a heart attack in 1978, was placed in a simple coffin on top of an oriental rug on the steps of St. Peter's Square. An open book of gospels was laid atop his body, and a white candle, signifying eternal life, burned next to the coffin. Cardinals, wearing red vestments, came by to pay their public respects, visiting in order of seniority.
But, as with most papal funerals, the event went beyond such simplicity.
After the public viewing, the casket of John Paul I was laid in two other coffins. The first is a lead liner that weighed more than 880 pounds that also includes important papers signed by the pope under the papal seal. The second extra coffin is a massive elm casket, the wood signifying the importance of the person being buried.
The lead and oak caskets were embossed with inscriptions giving the dates of John Paul's life and reign, as well as a cross with a skull and crossbones at its foot, and John Paul's personal coat of arms, a shield with mountains and the winged lion of Venice's St. Mark's Cathedral. The word "humilitas" also was inscribed on the two outer coffins.
All three coffins then were lowered into a marble sarcophagus and covered by a large stone slab. The tomb is near others that hold at least 144 other popes.
The last papal funeral was marked by rain and a strong wind, and even this became cause for graceful ceremony.
When the wind picked up, midway through the outdoor portion of the service, eight Vatican attendants carried a canopy to cover Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri, who delivered the Mass. As the rain picked up, attendants behind each of the 92 cardinals in attendance opened black umbrellas. The wind then blew the pages of the holy gospel placed on top of John Paul's coffin and, soon, rain soaked the pages.