Pope John Paul II
Pastor to the world, he led a revolution of conscience
In the last dozen years of his papacy, a frail John Paul II saw the American Catholic Church battered by the biggest crisis in its history when in the early 1990s, it surfaced that many bishops had covered up cases of sexual abuse by priests. In Boston, the scandal climaxed with the 2002 resignation of the pope's close ally, Cardinal Bernard Law. Millions of Catholics lost their trust in the church.
To liberals, the scandals were the natural result of the pope's policies of keeping the priesthood male and celibate. Conservatives believed the abuses grew out of a clerical homosexual clique.
But even critics of the pope were drawn to what may well become his central legacy: his commitment to spiritual renewal and the strengthening of the church's prophetic voice against moral relativism in modern culture. "Vast sectors of society are confused by what is right and what is wrong and are at the mercy of those with the power to 'create' opinion and impose it on others," he said during a trip to the United States in 1993. Whether John Paul will be remembered as a reformer who revitalized the church or an obstructionist who thwarted the goals of Vatican II will be left for historians to decide. The arguments have already begun, as the faithful and the skeptical sift through the considerable legacy of a fruitful and remarkable life.
LAYING A POPE TO REST
The ritual begins as soon as the pope's death is medically certified by a physician. Following the belief that no man could remain asleep when his name is called, the chamberlain of the Holy See calls out Pope John Paul II's given name, Karol, three times. Hearing no response, he officially declares: "The pope is dead," thus setting in motion long-established traditions of the church. From the many mass services to the burial rites, there is a highly ordered, series of events related to a papal funeral.
The chamberlain (also known as camerlengo), becomes the Vatican's administrator, overseeing the transition period (called a "vacant see") between the pope's death and the election of a new pope. Gathering in Rome from around the world, the College of Cardinals, convenes within a day or two of the pope's death. Among other things, they will:
- Make papal funeral and burial decisions.
- Schedule nine funeral masses for the pope.
- Ensure that the pope is buried between the fourth and sixth day after his death.
- Read any documents left by the pope.
- Schedule the beginning of the conclave, the meeting that elects John Paul II's successor.
St. Peter's Basilica
Modern popes have traditionally been buried in the crypt below St. Peter's Basilica. In the final months of his illness, there was widespread speculation that John Paul II would be buried in his native Poland.
St. Peter's Basilica
Tomb of St. Peter (directly under the dome)
Door of Death (so named because it used to be the exit for funeral processions).