When a  Pope Dies

Regardless of the circumstances, when a Pope dies certain procedures specified in Church law, specifically the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, must be followed. First among these is the certification that he is truly dead. This task falls to the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church.

In the presence of the Master of Papal Liturgical Ceremonies, the Cleric Prelates of the Apostolic Camera, and the Secretary and the Chancellor of the Apostolic Camera, the Camerlengo ascertains that the Pope is dead. Naturally, this could require the assistance of medical personnel. Having made this determination, the Chancellor of the Apostolic Camera draws up the official death certificate. The Camerlengo then seals the Pope’s bedroom and study. Its unsealing and the  disposition of its contents must wait the election of his successor. If the deceased Pope has left a will naming an executor for his personal belongings, the executor is responsible for faithfully carrying out the will, and for giving an account of his service to the new Pope.

Having certified that the Pope is dead, the Camerlengo notifies the Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, and the Cardinal Vicar of the Diocese of Rome. It is the Cardinal Vicar who publicly  announces to the City of Rome that its Bishop has died. Between the Camerlengo and the Prefect of the Papal Household, the Dean of the College of Cardinals must be informed. The Dean, in turn, officially notifies the other Cardinals, and calls them to Rome. He also notifies the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, and the Heads of State of the various  nations. The Camerlengo must must also take custody of the Apostolic Palaces of the Vatican, the Lateran Palace and Castel Gondolpho, that is, the various personal quarters of the Pope.

After the Pope's body has been properly prepared it is taken to the Sistine Chapel for the private veneration of the Papal Household and the Cardinals. Afterwards it is taken to the Patriarchal Basilica of the Vatican, St. Peter's, where it will lie in state.


 

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