Menu

Funeral Rites for John Paul II

The funeral for Pope John Paul II (search) begins Friday with an intimate ceremony attended only by high-ranking prelates, who place a pouch of silver and bronze medals and a scrolled account of his life in his coffin.

Royalty or dignitaries from more than 80 countries wait outside when the private rites begin at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. EDT).

John Paul's longtime private secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz (search), and the master of the liturgical ceremonies, Archbishop Piero Marini (search), place a white silk veil over the pope's face before the coffin is closed.

The funeral Mass, scheduled to last about 21/2 hours, is celebrated by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, deacon of the College of Cardinals, and joined by the cardinals and patriarchs of the Eastern Rite Churches, all in red vestments.

Based on the Vatican's book of liturgical ceremonies, published in 2000, the Mass begins with an introductory hymn, "Eternal Rest Grant Him, O Lord," followed by the singing of Psalm 64 (65) "To You We Owe Our Hymn of Praise, O God of Zion."

The prayer for the pope is read by a celebrant. Then the following texts are read:

The First Reading:

— Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 10, verses 34-43, known as Peter's Speech.

— The Psalm 22 (23), "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."

The Second Reading:

— Letters of St. Paul to the Philippians, 3:20-4:1, "But our citizenship is in heaven."

— John, 6:40, "For this is the will of my father that everyone who sees the son and believes in him may have eternal life."

— John, 21:15-19, dialogue between Jesus and Peter, "Follow me."

The homily follows the reading of the Gospel. The Communion song is Psalm 129 (130), "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord, Lord hear my voice."

During the rite of Final Commendation and Farewell, the cardinals approach the coffin and the deacon calls all to prayer with the following words:

"Dear brothers and sisters let us entrust to the most gentle mercy of God, the soul of our Pope John Paul II. ... May the Blessed Virgin Mary ... intercede with God so that he might show the face of his blessed Son to our Pope, and console the church with the light of the resurrection."

A choir sings the Litany of the Saints. The names of saints canonized by John Paul II may be added to the long list.

The patriarchs, the archbishops and the metropolitans of the Eastern Rite churches approach the coffin, pray for the soul of the deceased pope and bless the body with incense.

Then after a moment of silent prayer, the deacon sprays the body with holy water and blesses it with incense.

The funeral Mass ends with all standing and together singing: "May the angels accompany you into heaven, may the martyrs welcome you when you arrive, and lead you to Holy Jerusalem."

Then the prelates leave the altar in procession, bearing the coffin from the basilica down the steps of St. Peter to the Vatican grotto.

Here the coffin is definitively closed with red bands, sealed with both papal and Vatican seals. The coffin is placed in a second casket of zinc, and within a third of walnut. This outside casket bears the name of the pope, his cross and his papal coat of arms.

The service is not open to the public, but is witnessed by top Vatican prelates. The camerlengo, or chamberlain, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo (search), performs the rite, concluding with the words: "Lord, grant him eternal rest, and may perpetual light shine upon him."

They then sing the hymn, "Salve Regina."