Since 7 a.m. this morning, visitors to St. Peter’s Basilica have been given their first glimpse of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s new final resting place.
So what do the pilgrims think?
“I think it’s very is beautiful,” says Father John McGinley, a Scottish priest who traveled to Rome for Sunday’s beatification. “It’s very simply and tastefully done.”
Since Sunday some 250,000 pilgrims had filed past the wooden coffin as it lay in state before the basilica’s high altar. Last night, in a private ceremony, it was transferred to the altar of St. Sebastian located near the right-hand-entrance to the church.
The brief service was led by the cleric in charge of the basilica, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, along with eight other cardinals.
As the coffin was taken to its final place of rest they sang the Catholic Church’s traditional litany of saints. On this occasion, though, the name “Beate Ioanna Paule” was recited three times at its conclusion. The casket was then incensed as a white marble tombstone with the inscription “Beatus Ioannes Paulus PP. II” was placed in front of it.
Fr. McGinlay is in Rome with his brother and sister-in-law, Terry and Margaret. I accompanied them as they paused before the new tomb for their first look.
“It’s actually very plain, very simple and that is exactly what the man would have liked. It wasn’t a splendorous thing. Yes, it’s very plain. It’s also very moving, of course, just being here.” Margaret agreed, “Yes, very simple, lovely, and really nice.”
“The new tomb is really just a reflection of the life that he led,” added Fr. McGinley, “It was a life of humility, a life of prayer and of simplicity. As well as well being a great witness and a great prophet for the Church.”
All day the altar of St. Sebastian has been the focal point of attention within the basilica. It sits just to the left of Michelangelo’s famous “Pieta” sculpture and just to the right of the Blessed Sacrament chapel.
The St. Sebastian altar had previously been used as the tomb of Blessed Pope Innocent XI. The remains of the 17th-century pontiff have now been translated to the Altar of the Transfiguration. It sits to the left of the high altar overshadowed by a marble statue of St Andrew the Apostle.