On February 22, 1996, Pope John Paul II introduced revisions to the centuries-old ceremonies surrounding papal death, repose and burial. The revisions enacted through the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis applied to his own funeral.
Coinciding with the funeral in Vatican City, archbishops and bishops at cathedrals throughout the world celebrated memorial Masses for grieving Catholics. In a historical rarity, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christian leaders, as well as leaders in Judaism and Islam, offered memorials and prayers of their own for their congregants sharing in the grief of Catholics.
At the funeral itself, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I attended from the honorary first seat in the sector reserved for delegations from churches not in full communion with Rome; this was the first time an Ecumenical Patriarch attended a papal funeral since the Great Schism. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was present at a papal funeral for the first time since the Church of England broke with the papacy in the 16th century. Also for the first time ever, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, Patriarch Abune Paulos attended a papal funeral.
It is thought that billions of people had watched the funeral either through actually being in Vatican Square, watching it on television live, or watching a taped version or replayed version later that day. It is unknown whether the funeral of the pope was the most watched event in history; if so, it would overtake another funeral to hold that spot, that one being the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Vatican welcomed some four million visitors during the memorial week, which cost an estimated six million euros.
When Pope John Paul II died, the Camerlengo Eduardo Cardinal Martínez Somalo removed the Pope's Ring of the Fisherman from his finger. The Cardinal then ceremonially crushed the ring with the ceremonial silver hammer in the presence of members of the College of Cardinals. This is done to prevent the creation of forged, backdated documents, which would appear to have been approved by John Paul II.
After the ring's destruction, Cardinal Martínez Somalo cordoned off and placed wax seals on the entrances to the Pope's private bedroom and study. This tradition originates from ruthless cardinals looting the papal chambers upon the death of past popes.
The Pope's formal death certificate was signed by Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, Director of the Department of Health and Sanitation of Vatican City, on the evening of his death. Cardinal Martínez Somalo then ceremonially ordered the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, to summon the cardinals of the world to Vatican City to elect a new pope.
It remains customary for the camerlengo to call out the pope's Christian name three times, to ensure he has truly died.
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 Saint 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.
At first, he lay in state in his favorite pair of Polish-made brown leather shoes, an American size ten and a half, which he wore on his travels throughout the world. Later, following the example of his immediate predecessors, these were changed to plain red leather papal shoes.
The body of Pope 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 April 3. His body was laid on a sloped olive-sheeted bed and propped on a stack of three gold pillows. Near the bed was a wooden crucifix and a paschal candle symbolic of Jesus Christ as the light of the world in the face of darkness and death. His body was guarded by the Swiss Guard, a corps of men which has sworn to protect the pope through several centuries. During a period of private visitation Vatican officials and a contingent of officials from the Italian government viewed the body of Pope John Paul II.
On April 4, the body of Pope John Paul II was moved onto a red velvet bier, propped on three red pillows. The Papal Gentlemen, regaled in black morning coats and white gloves, were chosen as pallbearers and stood along the sides of the pope's bier. Cardinal Martínez Somalo, dressed in red and gold vestments, officiated the asperges rite. He blessed the pope with the holy waters of baptism three times: to the right of the pope, at his head and then to his left. An acolyte then brought to the camerlengo a thurible and boat. Cardinal Martínez Somalo incensed the pope three times.
A long procession was begun in order to transfer the body of Pope John Paul II from the Clementine Hall, through the colonnades of the Apostolic Palace and into St. Peter's Square among the waiting people. Traditionally, the pope's body is then brought to either St. Peter's Basilica or the papal cathedral, St. John Lateran Basilica. A procession of monks, priests and bishops paced slowly along a route towards St. Peter's Basilica. The College of Cardinals trailed by Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Martínez Somalo followed them.
As the ritual dating back to the medieval era proceeded, Gregorian chants were sung by several religious orders with the people responding to each verse with the ancient Greek prayer, "Lord, have mercy" or "Kyrie eleison." The Litany of the Saints was sung. After each name of a martyr or saint was chanted, invoking his or her intercession between God and the people, participants in the procession sang the Latin words, "Ora pro eo," meaning "Pray for him." This is a departure from the traditional, "Pray for us" or "Ora pro nobis."
When the body of the pope was hoisted upon the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, the Papal Gentlemen turned the bier and lifted the pope's head to face the tens of thousands of people that filled St. Peter's Square. Cardinal Martínez Somalo noted it as the pope's symbolic last look at the devoted followers that had filled St. Peter's Square throughout the papacy of John Paul II.
The procession ended with the seating of the College of Cardinals and the placement of the bier carrying the body of John Paul on a catafalque in front of the steps leading to the altar of St. Peter's Basilica. The paschal candle was lit and the body of the Pope was incensed again by Cardinal Martínez Somalo. Prayers were said and a reading from the Gospels was performed by a deacon. After the College of Cardinals paid their respects and left the sanctuary, the basilica was closed and then reopened for the official lying in state to last until the day of the Mass of Requiem and subsequent interment.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI led the Mass of Requiem on April 8 at 10:00 a.m. CEST (08:00 UTC), by virtue of his office as Dean of the College of Cardinals. He was also one of Pope John Paul II's closest friends and carried out most of the Pope's duties during his final illness. Concelebrating in the Mass of Requiem were the College of Cardinals (the number of members that were present has been variously given as 157 and 164) and the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
As the pope must be buried between the fourth and sixth day after his death, Friday was chosen as the last possible date. The Mass at St. Peter's Basilica was the first Mass of Requiem for a pope to be televised live in almost every nation in the world.
The event had an estimated viewership of over 2 billion people; the Catholic Church claims only 1.1 billion among its members. The funeral of John Paul II was by far the largest funeral in the history of the world. In lieu of a public viewing at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, as was tradition, immense digital screens instead broadcast the Mass of Requiem and subsequent Rite of Interment to people in the pope's cathedral church outside the confines of Vatican City. The same digital screens were hoisted at several sites in Rome, including the Circus Maximus, and at specially designated campsites outside the city for the millions of pilgrims who descended on the city.
The funeral was perhaps the most-watched live event in the history of television. People in the United States understood that the service took place during the early morning hours on their side of the Atlantic. Many people awoke in order to view the funeral, and others taped it for a historical record. In addition, several television networks in the Americas rebroadcast the funeral later in the day.
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 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. Before being laid in the coffin, Archbishop Stanisław Dziwisz had the honor of placing a white silk veil over the face of the pope (a tradition started by Leo XIII. ,1878-1903) - his last official act of service to the pope as his papal secretary. The body was lowered into a cypress coffin, which served as the innermost coffin. Along with the body was a sealed document, the Rogito, a eulogy detailing the life and works of Pope John Paul II, read by Archbishop Marini and signed by those present during the funeral. Three bags containing gold, silver, and copper euro coins were placed beside the body. Each bag contained one coin for each year in Pope John Paul II's reign, the only monetary compensation he received for his service as pope (totaling about €100.26) After the private ceremony, the doors of St. Peter's Basilica were opened while dignitaries were seated. Cardinal Ratzinger and his concelebrants prepared for their procession from inside the basilica to a marble apron in the middle of St. Peter's Square where the Mass of Requiem was held.
The procession began with the introductory chant, "Requiem Aeternam" ("Eternal Rest Grant Him, O Lord"), which includes verses from Psalm 64 (65), "To You We Owe Our Hymn of Praise, O God of Zion." Carried on the shoulders of the Papal Gentlemen, the coffin bearing the image of Pope John Paul II's coat-of-arms burned onto the lid, the pope was carried into St. Peter's Square onto the marble apron. An acolyte holding a red leather-bound Book of the Gospel led the coffin. The Papal Gentlemen laid the coffin onto a red carpet directly in front of the altar.
The Liturgy of the Word began with a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, 10:34–43, read by Chilean Alejandra Correa in Spanish. The responsorial was Psalm 22(23). The second reading was read by John McDonald in English, taken from the Letters of Saint Paul to the Philippians, 3:20–4:1. It was entitled, "But our citizenship is in heaven." The reader ended by singing, "Verbum Domini" ("The Word of the Lord.") Congregants replied in chant, "Deo gratias" ("Thanks be to God.")
Congregants stood for the proclamation of the Gospel, hearalded by the singing of Alleluia. After being blessed by Cardinal Ratzinger, an English deacon of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Paul Moss (who has now been ordained priest), processed with the Book of the Gospels to the ambo or lectern. He began by singing, "The Gospel according to John." Congregants replied, "Glory to you, O Lord." Moss then incensed the Book of the Gospel and then sang the reading in Latin. The reading came from John chapter 6, verse 40, stating, "For this is the will of my father that everyone who sees the son and believes in him may have eternal life." Moss then read from 15-19, which is an account of a dialogue between Jesus and Saint Peter. Jesus asked three times, "Do you love me?" He then told his disciple, "Follow me." The deacon raised the Book of the Gospel and sang, "Verbum Domini" or "The Word of the Lord." Congregants replied in chant, "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ."
Cardinal Ratzinger became emotional at certain parts of his homily, especially in reflection of the inability of Pope John Paul to speak in the last days of his life. Altogether, the homily was interrupted approximately ten times with outbursts of applause by the congregants.
The part of the Mass of Requiem called the Liturgy of the Eucharist began. Cardinal Ratzinger and the concelebrating cardinals gathered around the altar to consecrate the bread and wine. Catholics believe that at the Consecration of the Mass (when the priest says "This is my body" and "This is my blood"), the substance of the bread and wine is changed into that of Jesus Christ. This change is called transubstantiation. Because the Church believes the Eucharist is really and truly Christ Himself under the appearances of bread and wine, Catholics worship Jesus in the Eucharist.
After the Eucharistic Prayer (the point in the Mass during which the Consecration occurs), the Lord's Prayer was sung followed later by the brief Latin litany, "Agnus Dei". The Eucharist was then taken to the congregants in St. Peter's Square to be distributed among the faithful. As the congregation received the Blessed Sacrament, Psalm 129 (in some Biblical versions Psalm 130) was sung. Its lyrics proclaimed, "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice."
After the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the crowds in the streets of Vatican City burst into applause, waving flags and banners chanting, "Santo Subito!" which means "Saint now!" and "Giovanni Paolo Santo" or "Saint John Paul!". A few also repeatedly chanted "Magnus" or "Great", spontaneously declaring that he should be John Paul the Great.
The choir sang the Litany of the Saints; the same song was sung during the procession that transferred the body of Pope John Paul II from the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace to St. Peter's Basilica. Breaking with tradition for the sacred prayer, the names of the saints canonised by Pope John Paul II, such as Faustina Kowalska and Josemaría Escrivá, were allowed to be included in the litany. Names of saints included in the more traditional litany were also included along with the newer saints.
After the singing of the Litany of the Saints, the patriarchs, archbishops and metropolitans of the Eastern Catholic Churches approached the coffin of Pope John Paul II for their own rituals of commendation and farewell (panikhida). They incensed the casket and chanted the Easter proclamation "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by His death", and the rest of the Eastern memorial service. The Eastern patriarchs together with the entire College of Cardinals witnessed the sprinkling of the casket with the waters used in the sacrament of baptism. Incense was used once again, when Ratzinger, assisted by an Italian deacon of the Pontifical Major Seminary in Rome, father Nello Luongo, incensed and prayed for the dead Pope at the very end of the Mass. The Prayer of the Eastern Churches from the Office of the Dead of the Byzantine Liturgy was chanted in Greek and in Arabic, ending with "Your memory is eternal, our brother, dignified with blessings and unforgettable."
The Mass of Requiem was officially ended with congregants standing, singing the words, "May the angels accompany you into heaven, may the martyrs welcome you when you arrive, and lead you to Holy Jerusalem."
The Papal Gentlemen carried the coffin of Pope John Paul II for interment. As they carried the Pope toward the entrance of St. Peter's, the congregation in attendance broke out into applause and cheered as their final farewell. The coffin was then turned 180 degrees to face the congregation and the cameras, and the crowd applauded and cheered with more fervor before it was taken out of the public view for the last time. Cardinal Ratzinger handed over authority of the Rite of Interment to Cardinal Martínez Somalo, the Camerlengo.
An underground grotto beside the former shrine of the now glass-entombed and preserved body of Blessed Pope John XXIII was chosen for the interment of Pope John Paul II. He was lowered into a tomb that had been prepared following the transfer of Blessed Pope John XXIII's remains from the grotto to the main floor of the basilica after his beatification. The vault that originally held John XXIII's body had been removed so a new tomb could be built. The College of Cardinals decided to keep John Paul II beneath the altar of St. Peter's Basilica, citing the possibility of future beatification and canonization into sainthood.
Pallbearers took the coffin through the central door of St. Peter's Basilica. At that point a single bell tolled. The pallbearers took the coffin through the Santa Marta Door, under the Monument to Alexander VII, to the outside (South) of the Basilica. They entered the grottoes, a cemetery underneath the Basilica where Saint Peter is believed to be buried, through the door now used as the grottoes exit. After pacing through the low ceilings and long corridors, the pallbearers stopped at the crypt of Pope John Paul II.
Martínez Cardinal 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.
The cypress casket was lowered into a larger solid zinc (traditionally lead) casket, which was soldered shut. This coffin was adorned with three bronze plaques: a simple cross at the head of the coffin, a middle plaque with the Pope's name and the length of his life and pontificate, and a third with Pope John Paul II's personal coat of arms at the foot. The zinc casket was finally lowered into a larger walnut (traditionally elm) casket, bearing three identical plaques, which was shut with nails of pure gold. The middle plaques bear the following statement in Latin:
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 aboveground tomb, but in "bare earth"
Martínez Cardinal Somalo ended the Rite of Interment with the words, "Lord, grant him eternal rest, and may perpetual light shine upon him." Those present sang "Salve Regina" or "Hail Holy Queen."
Before the College of Cardinals could offer official customary invitations to the various heads of state and government, over 200 foreign officials had expressed their desire to attend the Mass of Requiem. Among the most familiar faces worldwide were the current and former Presidents of the United States, the President of Poland, the President of France, the King and Queen of Spain, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Chancellor of Germany, the Prince of Wales (who postponed his second wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles to attend), the Prime Minister of Canada, the King and Queen of Jordan, the President of Afghanistan, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Also attending were Mohammad Khatami of Iran and Israeli President Moshe Katsav.
The dignitaries were seated alphabetically according to the French spelling of their country's name and arranged according to diplomatic protocol, the largest delegations being the Italian (sitting in the first honorary seats were the President of Italy and other high Italian dignitaries) and Polish ones. As such, Israeli President Moshe Katsav sat only two seats away from a traditional enemy of Israel, Khatami of Iran. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe defied a European Union travel ban to attend the funeral. Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian made an unprecedented appearance, due to the existence of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of China. The People's Republic of China was not invited to the funeral. Altogether, the Mass of Requiem was deemed to be the largest gathering of statesmen in world history, exceeding the gathering at the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in London in 1965.
Several members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) flew to Rome to protest saying Cardinal Law's place of honor 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.
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." The College of Cardinals responded by stating that Cardinal Law was honored as a matter of his being the ordinary of one of the most important basilicas of the Roman Catholic Church.
The April 14 novemdiales Mass at St. Peter's Basilica replaced traditional hymns and prayers with those of the Maronite Rite, one of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Nasrallah Pierre Cardinal Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, presided over the Mass. It was the first time a cardinal patriarch of an Eastern Catholic Church offered a novemdiales Mass, in his own rite, for a pope.
On April 6—in advent of the arrival of the United States delegation aboard Air Force One, protected by a military escort—the Italian government issued a no-fly zone within a five-mile radius of Rome. The Italian government considered the President of the United States, the first sitting American president to attend a papal funeral, as the most tempting target for terrorists. Official diplomatic delegations from other nations began arriving at the same time.
The Aeronautica Militare Italiana (Italian air force) prepared their aircraft to be launched at a moment's notice in case of a terrorist strike. The Italian Army deployed anti-aircraft missiles around Vatican City, to the grudging dismay of the College of Cardinals. Marina Militare (Italian navy) warships were positioned along the shorelines of Italy armed with torpedoes. Gunboats ran up and down the rivers and waterways of Rome, including the Tiber River which flows around Vatican City. One thousand snipers were positioned on strategic rooftops throughout the Italian capital as Carabinieri military police task forces swept aqueducts and drains for explosives. Helicopters were dispatched to scan the city streets from above. Plans to close Ciampino Airport from commercial flights and divert air traffic to and from Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Fiumicino were finalized for the day of the Mass of Requiem and Interment of Pope John Paul II. Other smaller civilian commuter and recreational airports were also shut down.