Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Odds & Ends

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Odds & Ends

Article excerpt

Shortly after the death of John Paul II, rumors spread about possible burial in his native Poland. But it didn't take long for the Vatican to squelch the buzz. Instead he was interred in St. Peter's Basilica along with many, many other dead popes.

Plenty of papal burials have been controversial affairs. The church has even lost track of a few popes' burial sites. Richard McBrien's Lives of the Popes (HarperSanFrancisco) not only gives readers the lowdown on each pope's life but also his burial.

The first several popes, Peter included, are reputed to be buried under St. Peter's, but the historical evidence is thin for some. In the third century a papal crypt in the Cemetery of Callistus on the Appian Way became the final resting place for several popes, starting with Anterus (d. 236) and ending with Eutychian (d. 283). Other popes were later buried in this same cemetery but not in this papal crypt.

Felix III, pope from 483 to 492, was buried in his family crypt in St. Paul's Basilica. In the same crypt are his father (also a priest), his wife, and some of his children. It was a different time, to say the least.

Pope Formosus, who died in 896, had several burials. Nine months after his first burial, he was exhumed, placed on trial, found guilty, and--as punishment--mutilated and dumped into the Tiber River before his second burial. Four popes later, Theodore I, whose reign lasted only 20 days in 897, brought Formosus' dismembered body back to St. Peter's for yet another burial. It's always good to have friends in high places, but there's little wonder no subsequent pope ever chose the name Formosus.

Centuries later when Pius IX's body was moved from its original burial site in St. Peter's to the church of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura in 1881, an unruly mob almost succeeded in snatching his body and tossing it into the Tiber. …

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