Translating the remains of Bl. John Paul II into the Basilica

The other day Rome Reports posted a video of a screen set up around the altar of Bl. Innocent XI in the Vatican Basilica.  It was immediately assumed that that is where the body of Bl. John Paul II would be placed.

L’Osservatore Romano of 15 Jan 2011 has a brief statement that the remains of soon-to-blessed John Paul II will be translated (“translate” is a technical term for the moving of the body or relics) from the crypt below up to the Chapel of St. Sebastian in the Vatican Basilica itself, where at the moment is the altar and tomb of Bl. Innocent XI.  This chapel is, as you walk into St. Peter’s, in the right hand nave, passed the Pietà.  I have said Mass there many times.

However, the body of the blessed will not be exposed.  It will be enclosed in a simple tomb of marble with the inscription: Beatus Ioannes Paulus ii.

At one time or another during the cause of Bl. John Paul there would have to have been a formal opening of the coffin and an examination of the remains, both to see what condition they were in and also to gather relics.

La salma
sarà traslata
nella basilica Vaticana

Saranno traslate dalle Grotte alla basilica Vaticana le spoglie di Giovanni Paolo II. In occasione della beatificazione del Pontefice, infatti, ne è stata decisa la collocazione nella cappella di San Sebastiano all’altare del beato Innocenzo xi, situata nella navata destra della basilica, tra le cappelle della Pietà e del Santissimo Sacramento. La traslazione della bara avverrà senza esumazione:  quindi il corpo di Papa Wojtyla non sarà esposto, ma si troverà in un vano chiuso da una semplice lapide di marmo con la scritta:  Beatus Ioannes Paulus ii.

It is probable that Bl Innocent will be moved to the crypt, but – I am guessing – not to the niche where Bl. John Paul still is.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Are there no other altars where the body of the new Blessed will be placed? Why would Blessed Innocent XI be removed?

  2. The folks running the basilica have to consider traffic patterns, visitor safety, and security. Pretty standard concerns for any popular pilgrimage church, from the days of Constantine until now. Bodies used to get translated all the time for all sorts of reasons; and a saint’s body is particularly subject to being moved.

  3. JustDave says:

    According to Pope Innocent XI will be moved closer the the high altar at St. Peter’s.
    Blessed Pope Innocent XI’s tomb, currently found below the altar in the same chapel, will be moved nearer the high altar of St. Peter’s to make room for the new tenant. His body will be put under the altar located below the famous mosaic rendering Raphael’s The Transfiguration.

  4. JP Borberg says:

    Do we call him ‘Bl John Paul’ already? I thought he wasn’t ‘blessed’ until the May 1.

  5. Medieval Peasant says:

    Fr. Z could you clarify whether or not the canonization of a person is infallible? Also, I have been hearing a lot of alarm from “traddys” about moves to canonize him JPII. Even if he were canonized does that completely eliminate all possibility that he made mistakes? Can’t a person be canonized even though they made mistakes in life? How should we look at all this?

  6. Of course a person can be saintly and still mess up! Where the heck did it ever say that Mother Teresa couldn’t stumble over words or make a math mistake? Did St. Bernadette never drop a stitch? Are we seriously going to argue that sainthood is a superpower, or a machine for debugging our lives? When did God say, “And if you do what I command, you’ll never have to carry the cross of being fallible and human ever again, and you’ll never start buttoning at the wrong button”?

    St. Jerome is as always a wonderful example of this, because whenever he didn’t get a letter he was sure that the people not answering his letters promptly were plotting behind his back. (Alas, people were apparently always making off with his letters from famous people or failing to deliver them, and this caused him to start a lot of theological fights.) And let’s not even talk about early in his career, when he sneered at St. Ambrose and got into fights with all sorts of persons. His writing isn’t any less the writing of a Father of the Church for all that. He became more sanctified as he tried to live in Christ and kept working on it till the day of his death; he didn’t automatically become super-perfect at any stage in the game.

    Little St. Therese managed to alienate and mishandle a lot of people in her time. She was a saint, but she was also just a kid. She learned better; she didn’t start out knowing all.

  7. Oh, and of course saints can have sinned. Bar Mary, I don’t think there’s any saint in the calendar who would have denied, before they died, that they were sinners.

    Martyrs have the advantage in this department, as dying for Christ is the fast road to Heaven. So you even have stories of people who weren’t Christian, didn’t know bupkis about Christianity, and had just been up at the temple offering sacrifice to the gods and making whoopie, being inspired by the courage of Christians to go die with them and believe in their God.

    The other thing that has to be recognized is that God’s standard for going directly to Heaven as a saint is almost certainly less rigorous than canonization standards. The Pope is looking for people who are saints and role models, whereas there are probably plenty of people in Heaven seeing God face to face, whom we would never suspect. God is merciful, and His saints are grateful.

    Non-martyr saints (to become officially recognized as Venerables) have to be known to have achieved a martyr-like level of “heroic virtue” in their lives. As with the varying lives of martyrs, such virtue can have existed a long time or a very short time; but the person has to be living in heroic virtue at the moment of death. Nothing in the heroic virtue standard says anything about the saints never making mistakes or inadvertently torquing people off.

    To become beatified, there has to be a miracle through a Venerable’s intercession. The miracle is a sign also that the beatification process has God’s favor. If God doesn’t want someone to be beatified or canonized, or doesn’t want it to happen yet, all He has to do is not allow miracles of a certain verifiable kind to occur. Or He can make sure that they’re never clearly due to the intercession of just that person. All the miracle and bureaucratic requirements are there to help make sure that people don’t become canonized until God makes it happen. When God does make it happen, it happens fast.

    St. Martin de Porres seemed like a shoo-in for quick canonization right after he died. But all the papers being sent to the Vatican were lost at sea, and it didn’t happen. Hundreds of years later, the diocesan copies of the papers for the process were found again and sent in, and he was canonized at the perfect time for the Church. Divine Providence has all these things in hand.

  8. SidMJr says:

    Father, Blessed Innocent XI wil be moved to the altar of the Transfiguration.

  9. Tony Layne says:

    @ Suburbanbanshee: Two of my favorite saints in this regard are St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Camillus de Lellis, both of whom led relatively scandalous lives until undergoing conversion experiences well into adulthood. Oscar Wilde had such saints in mind when he said that the difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future; Wilde himself, after his release from Reading Gaol, converted to Catholicism at the end of his life. We can also bring to mind St. Dismas: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Talk about your deathbed conversion!)

    Medieval Peasant: There are many traditionalists I respect, but some seemingly won’t find any pope after Pius XII holy unless and until Vatican II is junked (ain’t gonna happen) and the Latin Mass made the Ordinary Form again (will it happen? We’ll just have to wait and see). Papa Wojtyla was an amazing man of many gifts and tremendous moral courage, who inspired a lot of people, both Catholic and non-Catholic, but whose greatest work (I think) was in reaching out to Catholic youth. Was he perfect? No. But I think history will show that he was the right man at the right time, and will justify calling him “Saint John Paul the Great”.

  10. mjd says:

    That’s very interesting about St. Martin de Porres. If Ven. Pope John Paul the Great’s body is incorrupt, why wouldn’t the Vatican place the remains in glass, just like Bl. Pope John XXIII? When the miracle for canonization happens (and it will!), his body will again be examined. Blessed Francis X. Seelos’ remains were examined twice. The last time in 1999. If the submitted miracle for canonization is approved, his reliquary in the shrine will be opened.

  11. mariosw says:

    Why are you even considering if a saint has to be perfect or not? There are several saints who even went so far as to kill. For example, St. Thomas More while serving as Lord Chancellor of England had six Christians burned alive for distributing Bibles written in English.
    @ suburban banshee: you’re mixing up two different issues – dropping a stitch or making a mathematical error has nothing to do with making a moral mistake…

  12. mariosw says:

    I loved JP2, but why has his death and upcoming beatification have to be the cause of so much movement of venerated bodies? First he was buried in another pope’s tomb and now he looks set to take yet another pope’s tomb. Popes who died and who were ‘lucky’ enough to acquire a place within the hallowed Basilica should not be shunted out of their traditional, rightful place. They should remain there until the end of time. After all, nobody would consider burying somebody else in Peter’s tomb, so why of other popes?. If place is running out in the Basilica itself, other, appropriate areas within the Vatican should be sought for the recently deceased….

  13. JMody says:

    @ TonyLayne, remember that St. Gregory did instruct people to ignore the Second Council of Constantinople since it promoted instead of removed confusion. And also remember that none other than Joseph Ratzinger stated quite clearly that the vast majority of councils have to be seen for what they are – a waste of time, or words to that effect.

    Also recall that of 264 Popes, we only refer to about two of them regularly as “Great – il Magne”, and only about two of them are regarded as truly unholy (Stephen exhuming Formosus and Alexander II living with his mistress(es?) come to mind here) – many people, not even ‘traditionalists’, are merely offering the not-so-radical possibility that he was perhaps somehwere in between.

    An objective reading of history will show that long papacies are not automatically “Great”. I’ve said on another post here, there are plenty of questions about the scandal of things like truly liberal/almost-heterodox episcopal appointments, lack of action over the abuse scandal, and the complete unwillingness to stand up to anyone in the Church EXCEPT Lefebvre & Co. that one really has to weigh against stirring speeches and whirlwind tours. Bringing people to the Church by way of World Youth Days, which by all honest reports seemed to abound with sacrilege, desecration of the Eucharist, and scandalous teen grope-fests, may not be the best thing to put forward in his process as “supporting” evidence. His voluminous writings are at times too voluminous and verbose — compare his work to that of Bl. Pius XI or Leo XIII or others, who were also holy, and pious and set good examples, but could say far more clearly and directly why things are right or wrong, and also had the courage to rebuke those who would not heed.

    His piety and ability to forgive Ali Agca are tremendous examples, but as Peter, he is called on for more than this. Did he really do that in ways SUPERIOR to the vast majority of his predecessors so that he is not just one of scores of saints, but is one of less than five regarded as “il Magne”? Really?

  14. catholicmidwest says:

    Suburbanbanshee: “Where the heck did it ever say that Mother Teresa couldn’t stumble over words or make a math mistake? Did St. Bernadette never drop a stitch? Are we seriously going to argue that sainthood is a superpower, or a machine for debugging our lives? ”

    If we were just talking about whether PJP2 was good at arithmetic or not, this might be applicable to the issue, but we’re not. That’s not what’s at stake here at all.

    And as a matter of fact, people do try to use the saints as “a machine for debugging their lives,” and they are encouraged to do so. Saints are supposed to be paradigms and models for the lives of people. That’s the whole point of saints. It’s not like when we canonize them they get a better chair in office heaven or something like that (although some people seem to think that’s the case too, apparently.)

    RE time: I somewhat agree with you. If PJP2 is really a saint, then it won’t matter if time passes and the cause waits a while. If it’s really celebrity we’re looking at, then the enthusiasm will die down in the next generation and we’ll know, but only if they give it time enough for that to happen. Otherwise, we never will know.

    Also, the main purpose for canonizing saints is not to make sure our favorites get the office with the window in heaven. :) The main purpose for canonizing saints is to offer them up for emulation by the faithful, to use them as examples for living the Christian life. Therefore, if there is a lot of confusion or unresolved ambiguity of a very serious type around the person’s life, whether it was their fault or not, their example isn’t a particularly good one. If their example confuses as much as it elucidates, I’m not sure what the point of canonization at that juncture is.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    And there’s something else going on here as well. Over the last few years, we’ve seen drives to promote every single pope to the papacy, even Pope Paul VI.

    All popes aren’t saints; all women aren’t beautiful; all children are not above average. Some are; some really aren’t and that’s okay. We live in an age of hyperbole. People just need to remember that.

  16. catholicmidwest says:

    Ooops!! Promote every single pope to SAINTHOOD is what that last post should say!!

  17. jesusthroughmary says:

    I’m getting really sick of all these crazy Latin Mass-attending home-school moms arrogating the role of the Congregation in this matter. You’re not more Catholic than the Pope, and you don’t have the authority or the information that the Congregation and the Pope have. This beatification is not a ratification of John Paul’s papacy. It is a statement by the Church that he is saved. One is saved based on his personal holiness, not on his administrative abilities or pastoral wisdom. Blessed Bartolo Longo was a priest of Satan, and yet God saw fit to save him, and the Church saw fit to declare that fact after reviewing the evidence set before them, which was incontrovertible. The Church sees fit to declare John Paul to be a model of personal sanctity. It seems pretty clear to me that he was; besides, it’s not my decision – I am called to yield in religious submission to the wisdom of the Church. If you really, truly believe that the Holy Father and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints are going to beatify John Paul based on political motivations without the same level of rigor with which other causes are scrutinized, I suggest you find or start another religion. Otherwise, I suggest you stop slandering the Holy Father and the Lord Cardinals and other members of the Congregation.

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    I”m not really sure to whom you are speaking, but if it’s me, then FYI:
    a) I’m not a big-T Trad.
    b) I don’t go to Latin mass in preference to the N.O.
    c) I don’t home school.
    d) I saw what I saw for the last quarter century, I’m not wrong about that, and many other people saw the same things.

    You’re welcome to your own opinion of course, but that doesn’t mean I have to share it.

  19. albizzi says:

    Tony Laine,
    In my opinion, Pius XII’s worthiness to be beatified is greater than that of John Paul II since he had to go through greater trials which he overcame in the best way for the Church’s interest. In addition, he struggled against modernism the “mother of all heresies” while JPII did nothing but surrendering to it like his two predecessors.
    It will be unjust that JPII’s beatification will happen before that of Pius XII.
    The problem is that the Vatican is more afraid of the Jewish lobby outside the Church than the many faithfuls who, inside the Church, are questioning JPII’s beatification.

  20. robtbrown says:

    jesusthroughmary says:

    I’m getting really sick of all these crazy Latin Mass-attending home-school moms arrogating the role of the Congregation in this matter. You’re not more Catholic than the Pope, and you don’t have the authority or the information that the Congregation and the Pope have. This beatification is not a ratification of John Paul’s papacy. It is a statement by the Church that he is saved.

    It is, and it isn’t. Beatification is local and permissive. Canonization is universal and prescriptive. Bl JPII will not be a feast in the universal calendar.

    One is saved based on his personal holiness, not on his administrative abilities or pastoral wisdom.

    Personal holiness cannot be separated from wisdom or pastoral prudence.

  21. robtbrown says:

    Perhaps once JPII remains have been translated, one of his appointments can pray for courage at the tomb of the new Blessed.

    New archdiocesan policy opens Boston Catholic schools to children of same-sex couples

    The Boston archdiocese has released a new non-discrimination policy for parochial schools, allowing for homosexual and lesbian parents to send their children to Catholic schools.

    The new archdiocesan policy requires that all Catholic schools do not “discriminate against or exclude any categories of students.” The policy is the product of months of internal discussions, triggered by a dispute that arose when a pastor rescinded the acceptance of a lesbian couple’s child.

    Regarding conflicts that might arise if homosexual parents send their children to Catholic schools, the policy says: “Parent(s)/guardian(s) of students in Catholic schools must accept and understand that the teachings of the Catholic Church are an essential and required part of the curriculum.”

    In school within the Boston archdiocese will be free to write its own admissions guidelines, consistent with the overall policy. But the Catholic Schools Foundation, which supplies scholarship assistance to students in need, has announced that it will not provide benefits for any school whose policies are discriminatory. Michael Reardon, the director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, told the Boston Globe that the new archdiocesan policy should send a “clear message of inclusiveness.”

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