Published April 7, 2005
Why was the late Pope John Paul II clothed in red vestments for the viewing of his body?
The answer is because red is “associated with the feasts of the apostles,” according to Msgr. Anthony Sherman, associate director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Liturgy, “and the pope is the first among the apostles.”
The use of red in this instance is reserved for the pope, Msgr. Sherman said, “and it is not to be used outside of that.” If he had died during any other season of the liturgical year, the pope would still be in red, he added.
Pope John Paul II will likely be dressed in red in his casket at the April 8 funeral Mass, Msgr. Sherman said.
After a private viewing for Vatican officials, diplomats, Swiss Guards and a group of journalists April 3, the pope’s body, laid out on a damask-covered platform, was moved to St. Peter’s Basilica April 4 for public viewing.
Following his funeral in St. Peter’s Square, the pope will be buried in a casket in the ground in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica.