The Funeral of the Pope
with engravings by Bernard Picart, 1724
During the period between Popes, the Apostolic See is deemed vacant "Sedes Apostolica vacante". The Papal Tiara is replaced with the Pavillion or umbrella in the coat of arms.
The Ceremonies of the Papal Funeral have remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Over the years, certain modifications have been made. The latest ritual was codified by Pope John Paul II in 1998, and published on April 5, 2005. Today, many of the ceremonies that were formerly held in private rooms and chapels are celebrated publically or are televised.
During his death agony, Pope is surrounded by the members of his Pontifical Household. After his death, the Cardinal Camerlengo (Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church) enters and calls the Pope's Christian name, in the Latin vocative tense, three times (for John Paul II, it is "Carole" for Karol). Afterwhich, he announces: "the Pope is truly dead". On the night of April 2, 2005, following the ritual performed by Camerlengo Cardinal Martinez Somalo, Pope John Paul's body was vested in sacred vestments and placed in his private chapel.
After the announcement of the Pope's death, nine days of mourning begin. The Cardinals take turns celebrating the Requiem Masses for the late Pope. On April 3, 2005, the former Papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, celebrated the first of these Masses in St. Peter's square. That morning, the Pope's body was placed in the Sala Clementina for veneration by Vatican officials, employees and Italian civil dignitaries. The Cardinal Camerlengo, in a simple rite, sprinkled the body with holy water.
The Pope's body is solemnly transferred from the Apostolic Palace to St. Peter's Basilica, accompanied by the Cardinals and the entire Papal Court. This procession formerly passed down the 'stairs of death' and into the atrium of the Basilica, passing through the left doors of the Basilica 'the doors of death'. On April 4, 2005, Pope John Paul II's body was solemnly carried down the Scala Regia (the Royal Staircase, formerly the entrance used by visiting royalty), passing through the bronze door and St. Peter's Square into the Basilica.
The Camerlengo sprinkled the body with holy water and celebrated a Liturgy of the Word. The body lay in state for millions to venerate. Formerly the body was placed in a side chapel behind a grill, with only the foot protruding for veneration and later transferred to a high catafalque, before the high altar. Currently, the body is exposed immediately front of the high altar on a low platform, while millions come to venerate and pay homage.
Until the last papal funeral, in 1978, the Pope's body was carried through Rome, in order that the Roman people could pay their respects to their bishop. Due to the large crowds, on April 8, 2005, Pope John Paul II's body was laid to rest in the Vatican Grottos immediately after the Funeral Mass. This Holy Liturgy was presided over by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger and concelebrated by the Cardinals, and other clergy.