John Paul II's Tomb Opened, Coffin Extracted

Pontiff's Remains Will Be Moved to Main Altar for Beatification

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2011 (Zenit.org).- During a brief ceremony this morning in the Vatican Grottos, Pope John Paul II's tomb was opened and the wood coffin containing his body was extracted.

Jesuit Father Federico, the director of the Vatican press office, reported today in a press conference that the procedures to open the tomb began early in the morning, and at 9 a.m. the coffin was moved to a spot in front of the tomb of St. Peter.

"As can be recalled," the spokesman said, "the Pope was buried in three coffins, the first of wood, which was displayed during the funeral, the second of lead, which is sealed, and the third, external one, which is also made of wood and was the one revealed this morning at the moment of the extraction from the tomb."

The priest reported that the exterior wood coffin "is in a good state of preservation, even though showing signs of the passage of time."

Father Lombardi said "several dozens" were on hand for a brief prayer at the gravesite, led by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Peter, before the coffin was transported the short distance to where it will remain until Sunday.

Those also in attendance included Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict XVI's secretary of state; Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, Poland, and former personal secretary to John Paul II; Archbishop Piero Marini, who was Master of Liturgical Celebrations under John Paul II; and Sister Tobiana and the religious of the papal apartments of John Paul II.

During the transportation of the coffin, which was covered with a cloth embroidered in gold, the litanies were sung. At the end of the 15-minute ceremony, Cardinal Bertone offered a short prayer.

The Vatican spokesman reported that the tomb's marble stone will be moved to Krakow's new church that will be dedicated to Blessed John Paul II.

On Sunday, the coffin will be transferred to the main altar basilica, where it will remain for the beatification ceremony and for public veneration until 5am on Monday morning.

Father Lombardi stated that the placement of the coffin under the altar of the Chapel of St. Sebastian will most likely take place May 2 after the basilica closes.