Mourning the Pope

The period of mourning, like the period of the interregnum or vacancy, begins when a Pope dies. The day of death is counted as the first day of this period. The College of Cardinals will also declare an official mourning period of nine days, called the Novendiales*, which during the Vacancy after the death of Pope John Paul II began on the day of the funeral, counted as Day 1 of the Novendiales. On each of the nine days a different Cardinal celebrates a public funeral rite for the Holy Father, following the Ordo Exsequiarum Romani Pontificis (2000).

For other celebrants, the Missal provides a Mass formula "For a Deceased Pope," and the Liturgy of the Hours an Office of the Dead, which can be used during this time, if the liturgical season permits. In 2005, since Pope John Paul II died during the Octave of Easter (on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday), the initial rites celebrated for him observed the liturgical precedence which the Octave of Easter, the Sundays of Easter and Solemnities which are Holy Days, have (the Annunciation had been transferred out of Holy Week in 2005 to 4 April). However, excluding Sundays, the Mass formula for a deceased Pope, and the Office of the Dead with proper, were able to be celebrated during the Easter Season.

Prior to his burial, and following private rites in the Sistine Chapel, the Pope is laid in state in St. Peter’s Basilica, permitting the faithful to pay their respects. In Pope John Paul II's case, this was preceded by a period of visitation for the Papal Household, Civil Dignitaries and Diplomats, held in the Clementina Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

After the Funeral and Burial the mourning period continues until the nine days are completed.

*novendiales/novemdiales (Latin) and novendiali (Italian):
From novem (nine) and dies (days), meaning lasting nine days. A religious festival of nine days length, or, the ceremonies honoring a deceased, which in ancient Rome ended on the ninth day of death with a funereal feast (the novendialis). The English word novena, for nine days of prayer, shares the same root.


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