"Good Pope" Returns to St. Peter´s Square

John XXIII´s Body Displayed at Pentecost Mass

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Blessed John XXIII's incorrupt body was displayed in St. Peter's Square today, exactly 38 years after his death.

A half-million people are expected to visit the "Good Pope's" remains this week in St. Peter's Basilica.

During his homily at Mass on Pentecost, John Paul II thanked the "Good Pope" for his "witness of holiness," giving the Catholic Church a surprise renewal with the convocation of the Second Vatican Council.

"That light breeze became a determined wind, and the conciliar event took on the form of a renewed Pentecost," the Pope told the thousands of pilgrims in the square.

John XXIII's (1881-1963) incorrupt body, dressed in white pontifical ornaments, and his characteristic ermine-bordered red velvet cape, appeared before pilgrims in a bronze and crystal coffin, in St. Peter's Square, a few minutes before the Mass began. His face was covered by a protective wax mask.

When the 450-kilogram (990-pound) bulletproof coffin, wheeled by 16 people, went through the Arch of Bells into the square, the silence of the solemnity was broken by the faithful's applause, many of them elderly people who knew Angelo Roncalli when he was alive. The day after his death, his body was also displayed in St. Peter's Square before 100,000 people.

Among today's front-row pilgrims was Sister Caterina Capitani, an Italian nun who was cured of a malignant tumor. The miracle was attributed to John XIII's intercession, and made possible the "Good Pope's" beatification last Sept. 3.

The nun smiled, when she was approached by reporters, and was very moved. "What would you like me to say?" she asked. "It is a very beautiful and important day, I don't know what else to add."

To explain why he decided to display the "Good Pope's" body again, John Paul II quoted a phrase that Pope Roncalli used to say when referring to martyrs and Pontiffs buried in St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican grottoes: "Sometimes, the relics of their bodies are reduced to a few bones, but their memory and prayer continues to palpitate in them."

Following the Mass, John XXIII's body was taken in procession into the basilica. It was placed before the altar of the Confession, so that it could be venerated by pilgrims until 8 p.m. Roman time.

After the basilica is closed, the coffin will be finally placed in St. Jerome's altar, a favorite spot of the deceased Pontiff's.

John XXIII's body was found well preserved when it was exhumed earlier this year. Vatican officials cautioned against considering it a miracle, citing the modern preservation techniques used on the body.

Zenit - The World Seen From Rome
3. juni 2001

av Webmaster publisert 04.06.2001, sist endret 04.06.2001 - 15:03