Vatican spokesman says no decision yet on whether to move JPII’s tomb

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A Vatican spokesman said no decision had yet been made on whether to move the tomb of Pope John Paul II to a more prominent place on the main level of St. Peter's Basilica.

The spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said March 30 that "no decision on the matter will be made before beatification" of the late pope. He denied reports that a Vatican commission already had met to determine the tomb's new location.

The pope's tomb, visited by millions of people every year, is located in a papal burial area in the grotto underneath the basilica.

According to a detailed report March 29 by the Italian news agency ANSA, the plan to move the pope's tomb has been studied and approved by a Vatican commission led by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica.

ANSA said the plan foresaw two options: a stone monument without display of the body, or a glass casket through which the pope's body could be viewed. In the latter case, his face would be covered by a light protective wax mask.

Cardinal Comastri told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that relocation of the tomb was "plausible" after the beatification process is concluded. According to the newspaper, the new tomb site would be in the Chapel of St. Sebastian, located on the right aisle of the basilica just after the chapel housing Michelangelo's statue of the "Pieta."

La Stampa also quoted Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, as favoring the idea of the glass casket.

"This would be a way to make him closer and more visible to the thousands of faithful from all over the world who come every day to pray at his tomb," Cardinal Saraiva said.

If the tomb is moved, exhumation and verification of the condition of the body would be a necessary part of the process, the cardinal said.

"At this point the wax mask would be made, expressing the facial lines of the pope, as has been done with other saints," he said.

"Whoever goes to pray in St. Peter's will see the body of John Paul II and will recognize him immediately," he said.

Pope John Paul died April 2, 2005, and Pope Benedict XVI waived the normal five-year waiting process for the start of his sainthood cause. The initial, diocesan phase of the cause concluded in April 2007; the Vatican's saints congregation now is studying the documentation and examining reports of possible miracles attributed to the late pope's intercession.


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