Vatican Not Rushing to Judgment on John XXIII´s Remains

Pope´s Face Found to Be Preserved During Exhumation

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, MAR. 25, 2001 ( Pope John XXIII´s face was found to be perfectly preserved when his body was exhumed earlier this year. But Vatican officials for the time being are not calling it a miracle.

The bishops and technicians who took part in the canonical recognition of the mortal remains of John XXIII had a surprise when his body was exhumed Jan. 16: His face had not changed since his death in 1963.

The examination was necessary after John Paul II expressed the wish that the body of the «Good Pope» be taken from its resting place in the Vatican grottoes, in the basement of St. Peter´s Basilica, to an altar elsewhere in the basilica, as has been done with Pius X.

John XXIII, beatified last Sept. 3, was not embalmed. When he died June 3, 1963, the technicians of the Institute of Legal Medicine of Rome injected formaldehyde into his body, to allow the body´s exposition for the faithful, before its burial. The practice has been applied to the Popes who have died since the mid-20th century.

The surprising official report of canonical recognition was published Saturday. Among others, it included the testimony of Cardinal Virgilio Noe, archpriest of St. Peter´s Basilica. The final phase of the examination was attended by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the state secretariat.

The document states: «Once freed from the cloth preserving it, the Blessed´s face appeared whole, with the eyes closed and the mouth slightly open, with those features that immediately remind one of the familiar look of the venerated Pontiff.»

According to the report, John XXIII´s hands held a crucifix, in the position in which the Pope had been buried with his pontifical ornaments.

«The objective fact is that the body is preserved,» said Father Ciro Benedittini, vice director of the Vatican Press Office. «However, this does not allow one to comment or hypothesize on supernatural events, which could not be corroborated by what has happened.»

John XXIII died at 82, after a five-year pontificate during which he convoked the Second Vatican Council.

While awaiting its final resting place, John XXIII´s body has been placed in a lead coffin. It will soon be embalmed and treated for preservation.

Vatican experts hope to have more details Tuesday, when Cardinal Noe publicly presents the book «The Tombs and Funeral Monuments of the Popes in the Vatican Basilica of St. Peter.»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation