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Odds & ends.

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.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is a popular papal burial place. The last one to be buried there was Leo XIII (d. 1903), although he was originally buried in St. Peter's.

When the papacy officially resided in Avignon, France, most of those popes were buried there. Clement VI was buried in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-des-Doms, but was reburried at the Abbey of La Chaise-Dieu, where his body fell victim to the Huguenots who burned his remains in 1562. Innocent VI was buried in Holy Trinity Chapel in the Charterhouse of Villeneuve-les-Avignon, which he himself built. Gregory XI, the last Avignon pope, was buried in the Church of Santa Maria Nuova in Rome.

Lots of popes were first buried in St. Peter's but were then moved elsewhere, among them: Eugene IV, Callistus III, Pius II, Alexander VI, Leo X, Hadrian VI, Pius IV, Pius V, Clement VIII, Paul V, Gregory XV, Innocent X, Clement IX, Benedict XIII, and Clement XIV.

Finding the remains of 18th-century Clement XI, whose papacy lasted 21 years, takes several trips. Parts of him are buried in St. Peter's. His heart is preserved in the Church of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio, and yet other parts of this pope are preserved in the Church of San Francesco in his native Urbino. The Church of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio also claims the entrails of dozens of other popes.

John Paul II, like a good number of popes who preceded him, chose his own burial site. Since many would say his papacy attempted to centralize the church in Rome, it's appropriate that this leader did not go off to his native land in death. Indeed, a Roman burial suits John Paul II perfectly.

PETER GILMOUR (Pgilmou@wpo.it.luc.edu) teaches at the Institute of Pastoral Studies of Loyola University Chicago.
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Title Annotation:catholic tastes
Author:Gilmour, Peter
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Geographic Code:4EXVA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
Words:625
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