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The Funeral of Pope John Paul II

Comprehensive Accounts, Including Funerals, Burial Places and Epitaphs

Wendy Reardon
Friday, April 8, 2005; 11:00 AM

Pope John Paul II, who led the Catholic Church for 26 years, will be buried Friday beneath St. Peter's Basilica .

Wendy Reardon, author of "The Deaths of Popes: Comprehensive Accounts, Including Funerals, Burial Places and Epitaphs," was online Friday, April 8, at 11 a.m. ET, to discuss and explain the customs and traditions of the funeral of Pope John Paul II and those of many other pontiffs throughout history.

In addition, Reardon talked about past funerals that didn't go so smoothly (burnt corpses, decaying popes, naked popes) as well as how some past popes died (choking on eels, ceiling collapse, poison, beatings, smotherings and botched operations).

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Seward, Neb.: What is the Catholic fixation with looking at dead bodies? It seems to me to be absolutely goulish to be so fascinated. And now I hear that at least some elements want to dismember his carcass and put his body parts on display. Even more ghoulish!

Wendy Reardon: I love being Catholic myself...that being one of the reasons. Not ghoulish...but to venerate the remains. JPII's wake was no different than a regular wake, and the pope's body was put on display so that people can see that the Pope, as head of the church, truly died, and the man himself, Karol Wojtyla. It is interesting, tho, that in almost any church in Italy you go in some part of someone is under glass.


Boston, Mass.: Just a comment. I woke up at 4 a.m. to watch the funeral. I wept openly. It is just now hitting me that Pope John Paul II is gone. When I heard the crowd chant, "Giavinni Paulo", I remember World Youth Day 2002.

Today is a beautiful day of sorrow and joy.

Thank you.

Wendy Reardon: Yes, that was moving, wasn't it? The applause, the great respect shown...I lost it myself when they brought the coffin out and when they brought it back in. Truly amazing.


Dublin, Ireland: Dear Wendy --
Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, is I understand buried beneath the Basilica where Pope John Paul II is being buried today. Given what we know of the nature of Alexander VI's papacy, why is he afforded this honour and just what is the Church's official attitude towards that papacy now?
Thank you very much. Wendy Reardon: I happen to be a Borgia specialist as well...Alexander is NOT buried there. His remains originally were buried in the old st. peter's but now are in the Spanish national church of Rome, Sta. Maria in Monserrato, along with his uncle Callistus III. Callistus' original sarcophagus and bits of his tomb however ARE preserved in the grottoes. The church tends to like to sweep the Borgias under the carpet, but I think with JOhn Paul II's openness the church's attitude has changed, just a little, to saying, yes, it happened, he was perhaps not the most moral leader we've ever had, but we've moved on. Also, there were many other popes worse than Alexander.


Parsippany, N.J.: Is this the largest funeral ever? Four million viewers is truly amazing.

Wendy Reardon: As far as I know, yes. Definitely for a pope.


East Lansing, Mich.: Hello. I noticed that the pallbearers did not seem to have any religious clothing on and were in traditional black jackets. In Roman custom, are pallbearers significant to the Pope and/or do they hold any significant role in the church?

Wendy Reardon: Hi,

The pallbearers are traditionally the sampierini (sp?) who would have carried the pope around on his chair (before Paul VI abolished that practise). The are the ones who lead people in to see the pope for audiences, etc. Kind of like butlers.


Wendy Reardon: Hi, I'll be happy to answer any funeral or burial questions as best I can about today's funeral or any past papal funerals, including accidents, rituals, etc.


Harrisonburg, Va.: It was good to wake to the funeral today, good to see so many world leaders actually having two hours to contemplate the life of a true Christian.

But my question is more pragmatic: how did everyone, those millions, go to the bathroom? I saw no Don's Gionns anywhere.


Wendy Reardon: Good question...I didn't either, but I admit I wasn't looking for them. I'm sure the Romans know how to handle that...


Indianapolis, Ind.: It may not be polite to say this but I think some of the ceremony for the Pope is excessive. Because it borders on treating him like a Diety or a Saint. But he's not. He's the leader of Vatican but not the leader of the Church. Jesus is the leader of the Church. The Pope deserves all respect for being the leader of the Vatican and a Priest. But these services and the TV coverage treat him like a diety. And it makes me uncomfortable.

Wendy Reardon: If you think this was elaborate, you'dve hated what they used to do...this is actually quite simple...only one candle, simple mass, no coffin closings to watch. He is given such a funeral not so much for him, but for the millions who want to pay their respects. The funeral is for the living, not the dead.


Washington, D.C.: The Litany of the Saints was used at some point during the Pope's funeral (with the response: ora pro eo). Is the Litany a typical component of papal funerals? Was it used because of the length of a procession? I was surprised to hear it, as it is not normally part of funeral masses.

Wendy Reardon: I thought that was remarkable...I want a recording of it. It actually IS used in funeral masses for regular people, but not to that degree. Normally it's just Mary, Joseph, Jesus, or any saint that had a particular meaning to the deceased. Here they did 70+ because, he was the pope and so liturgically it is more important for these saints to intercede on the pope's behalf, and to have so many. Most of them were early popes too.


Fairfax, Va.: What exactly are the grottos? Are they similar to catacombs? Are visitors allowed there? Are all of the popes buried there? Thanks.

Wendy Reardon: The grottoes are an area under St. Peter's where many popes are buried. In the original St. Peter's popes were buried in the church proper, but it soon got VERY crowded and so when the new st. Peter's was built in the 17th century, they designated the grottoes to be the primary burying spot, near the bones of peter, for popes who did not have tomb monuments above. The public is allowed to go down there, as it was redone I believe in the 60s or so. It's very nice and the original sepulchres of early popes are amazing to see...
Not all popes are buried there, tho most are. Some are buried in other cities in Italy (Perugia, Naples, Recanati, etc.), some in FRance where they died, one in Germany, etc.


Alexandria, Va.: I was told that popes are buried with their heads leaning to one side. Is this true, and if so, why? Thank you.

Wendy Reardon: I've never heard that before in all my research. Sometimes in Christian burial the head of the coffin is placed facing the east because that is the direction Christ will rise from on the day of Judgement, but as far as I know, the popes have been buried with their heads looking up at the roof of the coffin.


Silver Spring, Md.: CNN came on the air I believe the same year that John Paul II became Pope -- 1978. It would be interesting to look at how each helped the other. CNN allowed the Pope to reach billions around the world and he gave them great images until the end and now beyond. The Pope's visits were perfect for CNN often not very newsworthy, but great pictures.

Wendy Reardon: Yes, John Paul II used the media like no other pope had the opportunity to. I think that made his papacy even stronger and it definitely helped him reach more people than the traditional tv.


Washington, D.C.: Was Pope John Paul II embalmed? They had the body sitting out on view for almost a week.

Wendy Reardon: Good question. The reports say he WASN'T, but that his body was treated. I find it hard to believe they didn't do SOME kind of embalming, particularly after the...unpleasantness...of Pius XII, Paul VI, and JPI. However...and this is interesting...they very well may NOT have embalmed him so that if he is considered for sainthood, which I think he will be, and when he is exhumed to be beatified, they will be able to test the incorruptibility of his corpse if he had NOT been embalmed. They USED to take the hearts and viscera of popes and put them in jars in a church in Rome (vincenzo y anastasio) but that stopped in 1914 when Pius X died because he didn't want to be embalmed.


Arlington, Va.: A question off of the topic of the funeral events: As a papal expert, who do you consider to be the most interesting (maybe even scandalous) pope in history? Thank you.

Wendy Reardon: Personally...I love the Borgia pope Alexander VI (d. 1503) because he was a very funny guy, and actually DID do a lot for the church, tho he did love to partayyyyy, as it were. I think the most scandalous would be John XII in the tenth century. He was elected pope (and I use the term loosely) because his father made the cardinals elect him (long, but VERY fascinating story--better than any soap opera). He was 18, and was a REAL jerk, picking fights with Otto of Germany, carousing, womanizing, beating stray dogs. He died eventually in his early 20s from either being strangled or having a stroke while in bed with a married woman (strangled by the husband). And that is true. Other popes, tho, while party popes, for the most part ALL did good for the church, which is what a lot of people don't understand, or don't want to remember.


Arlington, Va.: The pope's will stated that he had thought about being buried in Poland but changed his mind. Are there any popes buried in places other than Italy in addition to the Avignon Popes who may be buried there?

Wendy Reardon: Yes, popes are in cities all over Italy, Avignon, Clement II is in Germany, there's an antipope in Spain. Primarily Italy, but all over.


Norwood, N.Y.: During the pope's final days there were many people praying. My question: Were the prayers for his comfort, for recovering his health or for his eternal salvation?

Wendy Reardon: I think by the end the prayers would be for him to not be in pain (mine were) and to enter salvation in peace.


Fairfax, Va.: Was John Paul II happy being pope? Revelations in recent days from his writings show he thought about resigning. Was this just for health reasons or something else?

Wendy Reardon: "happy"...I believe he was, as he took on what God asked him to do when he was chosen as pope. The only reason he would have resigned would have been his health, because his spirit was so strong, and he knew he was given a challenge to lead the church and he accepted it. Gotta love him for it too..


Washington, D.C.: I have heard talk about JPII being made a saint. I thought that sainthood required three miracles. Now I am by no means an expert on this pope, but are there many miracles attributed to him, or can that requirement be waved in lieu of a simple declaration of his holiness?

Wendy Reardon: You're right, 3 miracles are required, and there are already people coming forward to claim his intercession cured them, etc. I have heard tho that the Congregation for Saints is debating on whether to keep the 3 miracle rule. As of right now I don't think anything can be waived. Nothing would anyway until a new pope is selected. But the new pope could do it if he wanted to.


El Paso, Tex.: Is the pope embalmed? if not, are there any truth to the rumors that he was laying on ice for those three days?
What happened to John Paul I, how did he die?

Wendy Reardon: As in the other question...they said his body was 'treated'. I think if they didn't embalm him it was so that, should he be beatified, they can test for incorruptibility. I'm not sure about the ice thing, but I wouldn't doubt it. In fact, that's a pretty good idea....


Brussels, Belgium: What is known about practices for embalming the remains of JPII specifically, and popes in general?

Wendy Reardon: Specifically they weren't mentioned, what they did, they just said 'treated. Historically however popes were embalmed, and in my book I've got a great description of the embalming of antipope Alexander V (really makes you happy you're dead when they do it). The hearts and viscera of popes from 1590 to 1903 were kept in jars in the church of sts. vincenzo y anastasio in Rome. Popes should be embalmed as they have to lie in state "without giving offense"


Washington, D.C.: What "unpleasantness" with Pius XII, Paul VI, and JPI?

Wendy Reardon: the unpleasantness...well, in 1958 Pius XII's doctor, who was a total quack, used a spray-on embalming which didn't work. At his first mass the coffin cracked loudly from the gasses escaping from his body, then he was put up on a VERY tall bier and very far away from the crowds because he decayed rapidly in the heat. A Swiss guard fainted, others had tears running down their cheeks. Paul VI also became a little green, as did JPI.


Chicago, Ill.: I've been reading that popes do not receive traditional embalming in spite of the long public lying-in-state. One article related this practice to the fact that any part of the body of a pope (who may well become a saint) is fair game to be sold as a relic. Is it your understanding that this is the reason, or is it more that perhaps embalming is less used in Europe? And what is the Catholic position on embalming?

Wendy Reardon: Nobody could get away with selling a piece of the pope as a relic (3rd degree relics are different but those aren't from the actual body). As far as I know, Catholics can be embalmed. The embalming only stops decay for a week or so, just until the body is buried. I don't think it has anything to do with local as far as Europeans and embalming. I've got a few descriptions of papal embalming in my book that are pretty interesting...


Laurel, Md.: I'm not well-versed in the Catholic papacy. Who are the Borgias and what did they do?

Wendy Reardon: The Borgias---Callixstus III in the early 15th century and his nephew Alexander VI (1492-1503). Alexander liked to party, had children and a mistress, but was actually an excellent administrator and churchman. His daughter Lucrezia is often thought to be a poisoner, but she wasn't, she was just her father's pawn and was well respected in Vatican circles of the day. Look up Alexander VI on line...he was quite a character.


Annandale, Va.: Can you further explain testing the "incorruptibility of his corpse" if he is beatified?

Wendy Reardon: When he is exhumed, his corpse would be examined and if it hadn't rotted (to be blunt), than he's an incorruptible. Granted his eyes will sink and skin will recede, but he won't decay as a normal corpse would.


Silver Spring , Md.: What does embalming have to do with sainthood? Wasn't Mother Teresa embalmed and she is up for sainthood?

Wendy Reardon: I'm not sure if Mother Theresa was embalmed. Sainthood is not solely based on incorruptibility, so even if a pope was embalmed, and 3 miracles were attributed to him, then he could be sainted.


Frankfurt, Germany: You mentioned a pope was buried in Germany. Which pope is this and where is he buried?

Thank you!

Wendy Reardon: Clement II, buried in Bamburg cathedral. he was exhumed in the 1940s, and was very much decayed. There's a great book on that with pictures that they took when they exhumed him called Das Grab des Papa Clemens II.


New York: Just want to share that I'm nowhere near being Catholic or religious, but I've been following the coverage very closely, and I tear up at those 'key' or symbolic points, too. (Does anyone else choke up at the video of the pope struggling to speak but couldn't and the microphone was taken away from him?) No matter what your faith, he simply radiated warmth and compassion -- can't say that about a whole lot of public figures.

By the way, PBS did a special last Sat. night and it was not just informative, but very thought-provoking.

Wendy Reardon: Yes...John Paul II just DOES something to you...it's difficult to explain, but he was just so spiritual...


Tysons Corner, Va.: Wendy: "Other popes, tho, while party popes, for the most part ALL did good for the church, which is what a lot of people don't understand, or don't want to remember. "

Could you elaborate on this?

Wendy Reardon: A lot of people would tell me when I was researching for my book that 'all popes were bad', and I had to correct them. The popes of the renaissance and baroque lived like Kings, for they were the rulers of the secular world at that time, and because they lived lavish lifestyles many people think that they were just rich guys partying on the church's money. Yes, some did do that (they were only human) but even the ones who did set out to spread the Catholic faith, or improve mass, or reform clergy rules, etc.


Gaithersburg, Md.: I visited Italy for the first time in March of 2003. It was a beautiful experience. When I see the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica on TV, I remember it all because I was there. While we were in Rome, we went to a mass, and there were only eight other people there. Why do people who don't even attend mass, make such a gigantic deal about the pope's death and funeral? I have to admit, I am Protestant, and the whole thing is freaking me out.

Wendy Reardon: It's the same thing with Easter and Christmas. A lot of Catholics only go when it's necessary, but this was different than a normal mass. This was showing respect and love for the pope. It WOULD be great if all those people, the catholic ones anyway, started going to church now. I found the same thing in Italy too...sparsely attended mass.


Fredericksburg, Va.: Wendy, it was said that the pope wished to be buried in "earth." In the photos it appears that the coffin is being lowered into a crypt of some sort and then covered with a granite cover.

Wendy Reardon: That's as close to the earth as he'll get. He meant primarily that he didn't want to be in an above ground sarcophagus like most popes in the grottoes, or in a big tomb monument like some in teh basilica proper. Paul VI (d. 1978) had a similar wish which is why his tomb is in the floor. It's a sign of humility.


Washington, D.C.: Who served as pallbearers and how are they chosen?

Wendy Reardon: The pallbearers were the 'simpiatrini' (sp?), who were kind of like butlers. they would bring people in to meet the pope, etc., In the days of real ceremony those were the men who carried the pope around on his throne so that people far away could still see him.


Gaithersburg, Md.: I'm not Catholic so there's a lot I don't understand about these traditions. You said "they very well may NOT have embalmed him so that if he is considered for sainthood, which I think he will be, and when he is exhumed to be beatified, they will be able to test the incorruptibility of his corpse if he had NOT been embalmed."

Why is it important that he NOT be embalmed to be considered for sainthood? What is beatification (am I saying that correctly)? I definitely don't understand what you mean by "testing the incorruptibility of his corpse".

That being said, I went to Rome in the 80's and my family and went to the Vatican where we saw the pope leading mass. We didn't know why there were so many people there (as it was the middle of the week) until we looked to the front of the church and saw the pope. It was really cool.

Wendy Reardon: Because we Catholics believe that if a person is worthy of sainthood, their corpse will not decay. That's why in Rome I'm sure you saw a lot of bodies under glass. Beatification is the first step to sainthood, so he would be Beatified, and put on display (as John XXIII is now), before he would become a saint, but not all beatified people make it to sainthood. But it's the next best thing.


Chevy Chase, Md.: Did women participate in the funeral in any way? I didn't see any. And even the choir sounded like a men and boys choir.

Wendy Reardon: The only women I saw were the ones giving readings. As the church is male-dominated, I doubt there were any women in the actual ceremony, but I'm sure there were a LOT of nuns and women behind the scenes helping to make it work. Yes the choir was a boy's choir.


San Diego, Calif.: For us on the west coast the funeral was in the wee hours of the morning, so we will have to be satisfied with news accounts.

Re: the porta-potty question. I spent Holy week in Rome a few years ago, and they did have rows of them off to the sides, discreetly out of sight. It's hard to imagine that they were anywhere near enough with these crowds though.

Wendy Reardon: I don't know...but I wouldn't want to be swimming in the Tiber River about now...


Alexandria, Va.: What's visera?

Wendy Reardon: Intestines...vital organs.


El Paso, Tex.: How did John Paul I die? I know he was in office only 33 days. I assume no one ever expected that short a reign. There is a lot of credit toward John Paul II but everyone seems to forget there was a John Paul I who came up with the name.

Wendy Reardon: That's a tricky one. They claimed heart attack, but the stories that came out fo the Vatican were very conflicting. David Yallop wrote "In God's Name" which details the account of JPI's death, taking the poison angle. He WAS going to expose the Vatican bank scandal and punish some corrupt higher-ups, but then..bummer...he died, well, guess he can't do that now....(is what I'm sure some people said)


Falls Church, Va.: You mentioned that there was some "unpleasantness" with the embalming processes and funerals for several recent popes. Can you elaborate on that?

Wendy Reardon: Pius XII had a spray-on embalming so his body decayed very rapidly (the coffin cracked from the escaping gasses), and a Swiss guard fainted from the smell. Paul VI and JPI also turned a little green...


Las Cruces, N.M.: How many popes are canonized saints?

Wendy Reardon: I couldn't tell you off the top of my head because I'm answering all these questions now...but I can look that up for you. The first 40 popes were canonized (it must have been terribly disappointing for #41) and popes throughout the centuries...maybe 70 or 80ish? email me from my Web site papal-death.com and i can get you a specific number later on.


Rochester, N.Y.: Is there always a dean of the College of Cardinals or only when a pope dies?

Wendy Reardon: Yes there's always a Dean. He just is more in the public eye when the pope dies because he's one of the 3 who doesn't lose his job.


washingtonpost.com: The Deaths of the Popes Web Site


Washington, D.C.: If the pope had asked to be buried in him homeland of Poland, would that have happened? All of him or would part of him remain in Rome? Would they divide up the body?

Wendy Reardon: If he had wanted to be he could be, though his initial burial would have been in St. Peter's. The wouldn't divide him up, but perhaps they would give his heart to the Cathedral of Krackow (sp?). Pope's hearts have not been buried with their bodies in teh past-but buried somewhere that means something to them. (Pius VI's heart is in Valence, France, for example)


J'town, Pa.: What does the silk scarf over JP II's face symbolize?

Wendy Reardon: the silk over his face symbolizes that Karol Wojtyla, the man, has died.


Indianapolis, Ind.: True, the service is for the living and that's my point. What's the message to us Catholics? I'm not saying the pope wanted this. Matter of fact, he didn't impress me as a man who would have wanted all this ... but like you say funerals are for the living and certainly the official church IS sending us Catholics a message about who and what a priest such be to us ... are they telling is he's a man or are they trying to tell us he's something more?

Wendy Reardon: I don't think they're trying to tell us he was something more, like he was higher than any of us...and you're right, I think JPII would have been happy with less pageantry, but he was a very public pope and would have wanted everyone who wanted to come to be able to come, which is why it was outside instead of inside.


Dublin, Ireland: Why has it taken so long for Pope John XXIII to be canonized? Could it take as long for John Paul II to be declared a saint?

Wendy Reardon: The Vatican works VERY SLOWLY. It's all up to the next pope how quickly he wants to saint either of them.


Alexandria, Va.: Why are about half the cardinals not wearing red caps (are bare-headed) in the photos, whereas about half of them are wearing their red caps? Also, why do some have those tall white hats, instead?

Wendy Reardon: They actually have the red hat on underneath the big white one, the miter is what it's called. Taking it off and on is protocol, I'm not super sure as to why the hat was taken off at certain points, but James Charles Noonan wrote a book called The Church Visible which would detail that. It's a REALLY interesting book on all facets of church protocol and meaning.


Fairfax, Va.: What are the "miracles" John Paul II has performed?

Wendy Reardon: I don't know as any have been made official, but I have heard reports that he prayed with people and their cancer dissolved, etc. It will be inter sting to watch in the future just what miracles he has performed, and these will go through MAJOR scrutiny before the church accepts them as real miracles.


McLean, Va.: What does this mean "buried in soil"? Is the Pope's casket lying on earthen soil? Was the grotto excavated for this or is the bottom of St. Peter's already with the soil exposed?

Wendy Reardon: By 'soil' he meant below, not in an upright tomb. And no there is no actual soil under there (there's a whole catacomb underneath).


Boston, Mass.: Is this the first time that women have been lectors at a pope's funeral?

Wendy Reardon: I'm really not sure...I'll have to research that one.


Antipope?: You said there is an antipope buried in Spain. What is an antipope?

Wendy Reardon: An antipope is a guy that claimed the See of Peter when there was already a pope. As if someone decided they were going to be President too and a group of people elected him, even tho we already had a president. There were 39 antipopes altogether.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: What the heck is an anti-pope? You've used the term two times now. Please enlighten this lapsed-Catholic. Is there an anti-pope now or is this a historical deal?

Wendy Reardon: An antipope is a guy who thinks he's pope when there is already a pope (and the roman mob did NOT take kindly to them back in the day). There have been antipopes since the fourth century, here and there.


Waycross, Ga.: When he is beatified is that the same as deciding he is a saint?

Wendy Reardon: Beatification is the first step to sainthood. It will take some time, a few years even, for them to beatify JPII, if they are indeed going to do that.


Charlotte, N.C.: I have heard that in Pope John Paul II will ask that his personal notes be burned. Do you think they will honor his wish?

Wendy Reardon: Yes, they will.


Tysons, Va.: Can you explain the guards in the purple and yellow stripes?

Wendy Reardon: Those are the Swiss Guard. Julius II (d. 1513) hired Swiss mercenaries to protect him, and since then tradition is that they are Swiss, and contrary to popular belief....those outfits were NOT designed by Michaelangelo. That's a myth.


Atlanta, Ga.: As a fellow Catholic, I want to say "Thank You" to you and the many others I've seen educating people about our faith. Many aspects of our traditions are misunderstood. This is a wonderful, but sad, opportunity to inform.

Wendy Reardon: Thank you very much, and I agree, it's a great way to let everyone know that the faith has lasted 2000 years, despite some questionable leadership, and just gets stronger.


Virginia: It is sad. My grandfather, who was Polish and very proud of that, passed on six years ago. And the fact that the pope was Polish made him very happy. And now I feel as though I lost him all over again. At least I know now that he is in peace with his native friend.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

Wendy Reardon: Your welcome.

Yes, Poles and others who were downtrodden or from places not as free as us were who JPII championed. I'm sorry for the loss of your father, but now he can actually meet JPII! :)


Washington, D.C.: I do not mean to be irreverent or to offend anyone, but I am sick and tired of all this fawning coverage of the pope, his life, and now his funeral. There are other events going on in the world right now. Can we please move on from this round the clock, all pope all the time, orgy?

Wendy Reardon: Well I wouldn't quite call it an orgy, but I understand where you're coming from, and I'm sure the news agencies are glad it's over.


Rosslyn, Va.: Will we be able to visit JP2's tomb at the Vatican? Will it be open to the public (never been to Rome so I don't know what's open and what's off-limits.) Thanks!

Wendy Reardon: Yes you'll be able to view it, I should think as soon as it is all in place.


USA: As long as we're on the subject of the gory details of the human body after death ...

Didn't some recent pope's nose fall off?

Wendy Reardon: Yep...I believe it was Paul VI.


Washington, D.C.: So they would've actually cut his heart out from his body and sent it on to Poland and kept the body for the Vatican?

Wendy Reardon: Yes.


Washington, D.C.: It's my understanding that Pius IX was so unpopular when he died that there was a mob scene and the angry crowd nearly threw his casket into the Tiber. What sort of processions did earlier popes have through the city when they died?

Wendy Reardon: You're right about Pio Nono, as he was called. Other popes wouldn't have had a procession through the city unless they were to be buried somewhere other than SP. His body was on its way to San Lorenzo Fuori le mura, when it was attacked.


Burke, Va.: The history of the popes is fascinating. I've read that the head of the church used to sometimes be women. Is this true? Have there been women popes?

Wendy Reardon: There was allegedly a woman pope, Pope Joan, around the tenth century who gave birth during a procession to St. Peter's from the Lateran. There are facts to substantiate her, and facts that she was just an idea of Protestants, but popes are still not allowed to travel down the road that she allegedly gave birth on.


Washington, D.C.: Can you tell me the significance of the 3-layered coffins? Thanks?

Wendy Reardon: The first coffin is of cypress--the coffin of a beggar, the next is of lead (tho I read they used zinc this time) that has his name and dates,and to protect the inner coffin, and the 3rd is of Elm, to dignify the office of pope.


Westerville, Ohio: I heard that John Paul II appointed all of the current cardinals but three and you said all of the cardinals but three will lose their jobs. Why is this, and what will all of those cardinals do from now on?

Wendy Reardon: They'll still remain cardinals, but only the Dean of the college of cardinals, the Major Penitentiary, and the Vicar or Rome keep their Apostolic offices. New boss--new employees.


Wendy Reardon: I'd like to thank you all for your questions, but I have to sign off now. Feel free to email me your questions at Wendy@papal-death.com and I'll be happy to answer them...


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