The final resting place of Pope John Paul II has now been prepared.
In a private ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica April 8, the remains of Pope Innocent XI were moved from the altar in the Chapel of St. Sebastian to make way for the soon-to-be beatified Pope John Paul.
Pope John Paul is presently buried in the crypt below the basilica’s high altar. His body will be transferred following his beatification on May 1.
“This is the place where Blessed John Paul II will go because it is a particularly suitable chapel,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said in remarks to journalists. “It’s quite near to the entrance of the basilica and just next to (Michelangelo’s) Pieta.”
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the senior Italian cleric in charge of St. Peter’s, presided over the brief ceremony to move the body of Pope Innocent. The service included a candle-lit procession during which the names of all the popes who’ve become saints were intoned.
The remains of the 17th century pope were transferred to the basilica’s Altar of the Transfiguration. The altar sits to the left of the high altar, which is overshadowed by a marble statue of St. Andrew the Apostle.
Meanwhile, the altar of St. Sebastian has been restored with work being undertaken to improve its lighting and audio systems.
The translation of Pope John Paul’s coffin will also take place in private. The public, however, will be able to venerate the newly beatified Pope beginning from the afternoon of May 1 onwards.
“Beatification” is the second step in a three-stage process the Catholic Church has created for declaring a deceased person a saint. Beatification confers the title “Blessed.”