Blessed John XXIII's Remains Are Now On View At St Peter's
He is only the third pope to be given this honor. Millions of Catholics are expected to visit the basilica to pay homage to John XXIII, one of the most respected pontiffs of the 20th century.
The embalmed body of Blessed John XXIII, who died on Pentecost Sunday, June 3, 1963, had since his death been in the crypt, alongside the remains of dozens of other popes. The remains of many other popes are buried in the interior of the basilica.
The only other popes in glass coffins for public viewing are Blessed Innocent XI (who died in 1689, and was beatified by Pius XII in 1956) and St Pius X (who died in 1914, was beatified in 1951 and canonized in 1954 by Pius XII).
When John XXIII's coffin was opened 38 years after his death, his body was practically intact. "A miracle," some Italians declared, but without support from the Vatican authorities.
Gennaro Goglia, who in 1963 was a professor of anatomy at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, also rejected suggestions that there had been a miracle.
Dr Goglia told the daily newspaper Famiglia Cristiana that he injected Pope John's body with a "special liquid" to preserve human remains which had been developed by Professor Winkler of the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), an "authority in this field."
Before Sunday's ceremony, Blessed John's body was clothed in pontifical vestments and placed in a 450-kilogram bronze-and-glass coffin. On Pentecost Sunday, June 3, the coffin was carried in procession to St Peter's Square, where Pope John Paul II pronounced a solemn liturgy before thousands of Catholics.
After the ceremony, the coffin was carried to the interior of the basilica and placed temporarily before an altar under a huge dome painted by Michelangelo. The coffin's final resting place will be under the altar of St Jerome, in the basilica's central nave.
John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in 1881 to a poor peasant family near Bergamo in Italy. After being ordained and taking a doctorate in theology, he began a diplomatic career with the Vatican, holding posts as apostolic delegate to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, and apostolic nuncio in Paris. In January 1953 he was named cardinal and patriarch of Venice.
After a three-day conclave following the death of Pius XII, Roncalli was elected Bishop of Rome—pope—on October 28, 1958. Given his age, 77, at the time of his coronation, many expected John XXIII to be a "temporary pope" of minor influence, but in January 1959 he decided to call a council, which he opened on October 11, 1962, with 2500 Catholic bishops present.
One of Pope John's main objectives was to enter a new phase of dialogue with other religions. The Second Vatican Council introduced many reforms of the Catholic Church, including boosting relations with other churches and other faiths.
Pope John died from cancer on June 3, 1963. During his last week, Catholics, along with members of other churches and faiths, and some atheists, crowded into St Peter's Square to "accompany the good Pope," as many called him, to the end.
Bishop Loris Capovilla, Pope John's private secretary, 85, told La Repubblica newspaper in Rome that the most famous ecumenical slogan were the last words uttered by Blessed John, who said: "My time on earth has drawn to an end, but Christ lives and the church continues its work in time and space. Ut unum sint [that they may be one—Jesus' prayer for his disciples, quoted in John 17:21]."