EWTN Catholic Q&A
The Pope's Burial
Question from Jami on 04-17-2005:

Why wasn't the pope embalmed?

In addition, how was his body prepared-Doesn't a body begin to deteriorate and discolor shortly after death?

I don't mean to be morbid, just curious.

Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 04-17-2005:

The Pope was not embalmed, a practice not as common outside the United States as it is here. In many countries the body is buried soon after death. In the Pope's case, Dr. Navarro Valls stated that "only natural means of preservation were used." This suggests the use of materials, such as myrhh, commonly used for millennia, and possibly a short term preservative that will keep a body fresh for a week or more, but not longer, as embalming does. However, no specifics beyond the above quote of the Director of the Press Office has been provided by the Holy See.

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