Cardinal Responsible for Announcing Pope's Death

Apostolic Constitution Relates Norms

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 1, 2005 ( Media speculations prematurely announcing John Paul II’s death surprised the Pope’s vicar for the diocese of Rome.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, responsible for announcing the death of the Pope to the city of Rome, visited the Pope this morning and found him «profoundly serene and lucid.»

«I prayed with him only for an instant which moved me profoundly. The Pope is totally abandoned to the will of God,» he said.

As specificed by the apostolic constitution «Universi Dominici Gregis,» promulgated by John Paul II in 1996, the Pope’s vicar for the diocese of Rome is to announce the Holy Father’s death to the Roman people with a special notification, and will prescribe the intercessory prayers that must be recited in churches.

The document, in addition to stating how the death of a Pope is to be communicated, also contains the norms relating to the vacancy of the Apostolic See and the election of the Pope.

Before the official notification is announced, the Pope’s death must be officially confirmed by the chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church. The current chamberlain is Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo.

The chamberlain, who may be assisted by the medical staff, will be introduced into the Pope’s apartments by the prefect of the Pontifical Household, who is at present Archbishop James Harvey.

The chamberlain must then communicate «the death to the cardinal vicar for the city, who will give the news to the Roman people with a special notification; also to the Cardinal archpriest of the Vatican basilica,» currently Cardinal Francesco Marchisano.

The dean of the College of Cardinals, at present Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has the obligation, «as soon as he is informed by the Cardinal Chamberlain or by the prefect of the Pontifical Household of the death of the Pontiff,» to notify the cardinals.

The text also specifies that the dean of the College of Cardinals «will communicate the death of the Pontiff to the Diplomatic Corps accredited by the Holy See and to the heads of state of the respective nations.»

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