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More from CBN.com's tribute to Pope John Paul II

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THE CHURCH

Papal Burial Rituals

By The Associated Press

CBN.com -- Pope John Paul II, 1920 -- 2005

The death of Pope John Paul II on April 2 set in motion a centuries-old ritual of mourning and burial before the College of Cardinals chooses his successor.

When a Pope Dies

When the Vatican camerlengo, or chanberlain, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, determined that the pope had died, he removed the papal ring. The signet ring, used to seal official documents, depicts St. Peter fishing from a boat and bears the name of the pope.

By tradition, the ring is destroyed at the first meeting of the College of Cardinals to prevent forgery. A new ring is struck for the new pope.

The chamberlain then places seals on the pope's study and bedroom. A death certificate is issued and the dean of the College of Cardinals calls the cardinals to Rome to choose a new pope.

Lying in State

The pope's body is treated and dressed in crimson papal vestments. Paul VI began the tradition of having his head covered with a white bishop's miter. The pope's body lies in state at St. Peter's Basilica, where he will be buried on Friday.

Burial and Mourning

The pope's internment takes place between the fourth and sixth day after his death. This begins a nine-day period of mourning -- novemdiales in Latin. The burial follows a funeral Mass, presided over by the dean of the College of Cardinals.

The pope is entombed in three caskets:

A cypress coffin -- A copy of the eulogy from the funeral Mass is placed in the innermost coffin, made of cypress, as are bags of silver, gold, and copper coins. The number of coins in each bag equals the number of years of the papacy. The coffin is sealed and wrapped with three silk ribbons before being placed in a lead casket.

A lead casket -- The lead casket, which is soldered shut, is engraved with the pope's name and dates of his papacy, as well as a skull and crossbones.

An elm casket -- Finally, the lead casket is placed in an elm coffin which is nailed shut with golden nails.

On each of the remaining nine days of the mourning period, a Mass is said for the pope in Rome, with a different cardinal presiding each time.

More from CBN.com's tribute to Pope John Paul II

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