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Musical Musings: Miscellaneous

Music for the Funeral Mass
of Pope John Paul II

The funeral of Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter's Square The Mass of Christian Burial for Pope John Paul II was undoubtedly the largest-attended funeral in history, including these dignitaries. Crowd estimates of the faithful in Saint Peter's Square, in the surrounding streets and at the tele-linked sites like Saint John Lateran Basilica exceed 2 million. The viewing audience (live and on tape delay) was likely hundreds of times that many.

A large part of the world got a first-hand view of not only the splendor of Roman Rite ceremony, but of the sound and beauty of its authentic music, Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony, sung in Latin – still the official language of the Church, both in Rome and beyond. Here is a listing of the music for the funeral Mass, jotted down during a live viewing, and corrected and amended from official ritual books.

Authentication from the Vatican and from the USCCB Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy was attempted, but no timely response was forthcoming.

Preparatory Rites: Closing the Coffin

Prior to the Mass of Christian Burial, inside Saint Peter's Basilica, the body of John Paul II was taken from the bier and placed in a cypress coffin.

The coffin was then closed in the presence of the Cardinal Camerlengo, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo of Spain, and the senior cardinal in each of the orders of cardinals. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany represented the cardinal bishops. Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz covers the pope's face with a white veil Representing the cardinal priests was Cardinal Stephen Sou-hwan Kim of South Korea. Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez of Chile represented the cardinal deacons. Also present: Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, the archpriest of Saint Peter's Basilica; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the secretary of state; Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the cardinal vicar for the Diocese of Rome; Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the sostituto (deputy) secretary of state, who functions as a papal chief-of-staff; Archbishop James Harvey, the prefect of the Papal Household; Archbishop Oscar Rizzato, the almoner of the pope in charge of papal charities, Archbishop Paolo Sardi, the vice camerlengo; representatives of the canons of Saint Peter's Basilica; and Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the late pope's longtime personal secretary.

The body was blessed with holy water, a white silk cloth was placed over the pope's face by Archbishop Dziwisz, and a small bag with coins minted during the pope's reign was put into the coffin to aid identification in the future if necessary.

Cardinal Martinez Somalo offered a prayer, and then read a legal document recording the pope's life and works, which all present then signed. A portion of Psalm 42 was sung: Sitivit anima mea ad Deum vivum: quando veniam et apparebo ante faciem Dominii. "My soul thirsts for God, the living God; when will I come and see the face of the Lord?"

This document was sealed in a metal tube and placed in the coffin; a second copy was deposited in the Vatican archives.

While the coffin was closed and secured, more of Psalm 42 was sung: Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum, ita desiderat anima mea ad te Deus. "Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is longing for you, my God."

The Mass of Christian Burial for the Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II

Friday, April 8, 10:00 am
Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City

The coffin is borne into Saint Peter's Square
Celebrant: His Eminence, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals
Concelebrants: The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church
Choir: Cappella Sistina [The Sistine Chapel Choir]
Choirmaster: Msgr. Giuseppe Liberto
Organist: Mr. James Goettsche (an American)
The huge bell in the upper left corner of the facade of the basilica tolled slowly as the body of the dead Pontiff was carried through the church toward the square.
  • Introit: Sung as the coffin was carried from Saint Peter's Basilica and placed on a carpet in front of the altar in the Square. The Book of the Gospels was opened and placed on the coffin by Archbishop Piero Marini. The concelebrants processed to their places and the altar, cross and coffin were honored with incense.

    Antiphon: Requiem æternam dona ei Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. (Gregorian chant) "Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him."
    Verses: from Psalm 65, Te decet hymnus Deus in Sion... (polyphony by Liberto?) "To you we owe our hymn of praise, O God, in Zion."

  • Sign of the Cross: Sung by Cardinal Ratizinger.
  • Greeting: Sung by Cardinal Ratizinger.
  • Act of Penitence

    Confiteor Deo omnipotenti...
    Kyrie eleison: from Missa XVIII-B (Gregorian chant) Sung by the men of the choir, with all responding.

  • Collect
    O God, father and shepherd of humanity, look upon your family gathered in prayer, and grant that your servant and our pope, John Paul II, who has presided over the Church in the love of Christ, may enjoy, with the flock he led, the reward promised to faithful ministers of the Gospel. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

  • First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43, read in Spanish

    The passage recounts one of Peter's early sermons emphasizing God's desire that all humanity be saved.

  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23 (Gregorian chant) Sung by cantor and congregation.

    Antiphon: In loco pascuæ ibi me collocavit "In verdant pastures he gives me repose."
    Verses: from Psalm 23, Dominus pascit me... "The Lord is my shepherd...."

  • Second Reading: Philippians 3:20 - 4:1, read in English by an American seminarian from Alabama

    But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.

  • Gospel Acclamation: Alleluia - O filii et filiæ, Introduced by the trebles of the choir.

    Acclamation: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
    Verse: Deus, Deus meus es tu; ad te de luce vigilio. (polyphony by Liberto?) "O God, you are my God whom I seek."

  • The Holy Gospel: John 21:15-19, sung by the deacon, after incensing the Book of the Gospels

    "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

  • Homily Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, delivered in Italian;   read full translation here Cardinal Ratzinger celebrates the Pope's funeral

    "We can be sure that our beloved Holy Father is at the window of the House of the Father and he sees us and blesses us from there."

  • Credo

    Refrain: Credo, credo, amen. Congregation and organ
    Verses: in unum Deum Patrem omnipotentem.... (polyphony by Liberto?) sung by the men of the choir.

  • General Intercessions Introduced and concluded in spoken Italian by Cardinal Ratzinger.

    Response: Te rogamus, audi nos. "We beseech you, hear us." Congregation and organ
    Petitions: Read in various languages by laymen:
    1. French woman
    2. Swahili man
    3. Filipino woman
    4. Polish woman
    5. German man
    6. Portuguese woman

  • Offertory Psalm 18

    Antiphon: Diligam te Domine fortitudo mea. (Gregorian chant) "I love you, O Lord, my strength."
    Verses: from Psalm 18, Domine firmamentum meum... (polyphony by Liberto?) "O Lord, my rock..."

  • Offertory Procession Gifts brought forward by faithful from:

    Burkina Faso [Upper Volta , Africa]
    Poland (Wadowice)

  • Prayer over the Gifts Sung by Cardinal Ratizinger.


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Part 2: Mass (cont.) and Burial

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