March 28, 2001
volume 12, no. 87

Body of John XXIII is Incorrupt!

    VATICAN, Mar. 27, 01 ( - With visible emotion, Cardinal Virgilio Noe, archpriest of St. Peter's basilica, has noted that the body of Pope Bl. John XXIII, who died in 1963 and was beatified on September 3, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, has remained incorrupt.

    "It is a providential coincidence, a sign of divine favor and of holiness," he said today during a meeting with reporters about his book, "Tombs and Monuments of St. Peter's and the Vatican."

    On January 16, in the presence of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See, Bishop Leonardo Sandri, and Cardinal Noe, the tomb of John XXIII was opened for the recognition of his mortal remains which will be transferred from the Vatican crypt (located under the basilica) into the basilica itself. After only one-half day of work, the witnesses could see the face of John XXIII, " intact and serene," said Cardinal Noe, who also revealed "the emotion" which seized them at the opening of the tomb.

    Pope John Paul had decided on the transfer to the basilica, as a mark of the holiness of John XXIII. "It was not easy to find a place in the basilica where we can build the new tomb for John XXIII," said the cardinal. Indeed, it was necessary that this place be accessible at the same time to the faithful, who will want to venerate the blessed, and out of the way of the crowds which come daily to visit the basilica. The choice was made for the St. Jerome crypt, located on the line of the central span, not far from the statue of St. Peter. John XXIII, a specialist in the fathers of the Church, was devoted to St. Jerome.

    Blessed John XXIII will join the 47 other popes who rest in the basilica during a "liturgical ceremony," which should take place in the next few months. Among these popes is Boniface VIII, who died in 1303 and whose body was also found incorrupt in 1605.

    For approximately twelve centuries, the basilica and the Vatican crypt have been a place of burial for the popes, in order to perpetuate the memory of Peter, apostle and first pope. The forms of crypts are very diverse, from the sarcophagus of the earliest days to crypts of contemporary art (like those of Pius XI or Pius XII) including those grand examples from the Renaissance and the Baroque period.

More Revelations About Exhumed Body of John XXIII Confirmed by Archpriest of St. Peter´s Basilica

    VATICAN CITY, MAR. 27, 2001 ( Not only the face, but the entire body of Blessed John XXIII is incorrupt, almost 38 years after his death, a Vatican aide confirmed today.

    Last weekend an internal Vatican report revealed that a canonical recognition of the Pope's remains was carried out Jan. 16, which was necessary before moving his body from the Vatican Grottoes, beneath the main floor of St. Peter's Basilica. The document said the witnesses present saw that the Pontiff's face was incorrupt. He had the same expression as he did when he died in June 1963.

    At a press conference today, Cardinal Virgilio Noč, archpriest of the basilica, clarified that the whole body of the "Good Pope" was incorrupt.

    The discovery does not imply a miracle. Vincenzo Pascali, professor of legal medicine at the Catholic University of Rome, explained that the process of injecting formaldehyde, to which John XXIII's body was subjected, made it possible for the tissues not to deteriorate. Pascali also noted that the body was protected by three boxes, which impeded the entry of oxygen.

    Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, said Monday that the "conservation of the face, intact and smiling, is a gift from God."

    By tradition, Popes are buried in three containers. John XXIII's body was in a cypress coffin, which was placed in a lead catafalque, known as "castrumdoloris," which in turn was deposited in a travertine marble sarcophagus.

    The bulletin "The Basilica of St. Peter," published monthly by the Fabric of St. Peter -- a Vatican institution responsible for the conservation of Christianity's largest church -- explained that the opening of the three containers began at 8:45 a.m. Jan. 16. After a midday pause, work continued. At 5 p.m. the cypress coffin was extracted, and at 5:30 p.m. it was pulled by hand in a cart and taken to the Altieri Deposit, which is specifically equipped for canonical recognitions.

    At 6 p.m. Cardinal Noč received Cardinal Sodano, and Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, general affairs substitute of the Vatican state secretariat. Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, director of Vatican City's health services, was also present.

    The body will be taken to St. Jerome's chapel in the basilica; John XXIII admired the Fathers of the Church, and this saint in particular. Cardinal Noč said the chapel will have to be modified before the body is received.

    The Vatican is considering letting the faithful view John XXIII's body again, before it is reinterred. ZE01032708

March 28, 2001
volume 12, no. 87
News from ROME
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