The Pope and the Papacy: Questions and Answers

In the aftermath of Pope John Paul II's death, Beliefnet responds to readers' questions about the leader of the Catholic Church.

Questions About the Funeral
  • WHAT WERE THE SCRIPTURAL READINGS AT THE POPE'S FUNERAL MASS?
  • WHAT BOOK WAS PLACED ON THE COFFIN?
  • DID EVERYONE AT THE FUNERAL MASS RECEIVE COMMUNION?
  • HOW WAS CARDINAL RATZINGER CHOSEN AS THE CELEBRANT AT THE FUNERAL MASS?
  • WHY WAS THE POPE IN A PLAIN WOODEN COFFIN?
  • WHY DID THE POPE HAVE THREE COFFINS, ONE WITH A SKULL AND BONES ON IT?
  • WHY WAS THE POPE'S FACE COVERED WITH A WHITE CLOTH WHEN HE WAS BURIED?
  • WHY WAS THE POPE'S COFFIN ON THE FLOOR DURING HIS FUNERAL?
  • WAS THE POPE'S STAFF BURIED WITH HIM?
  • WHY WERE THE GARMENTS OF THE CLERGY AT THE FUNERAL IN DIFFERENT COLORS?
  • WHERE IS THE POPE BURIED?
  • WHY COULDN'T THE PUBLIC WITNESS THE POPE'S INTERMENT?
  • WILL THE PUBLIC BE ABLE TO VISIT THE CRYPT WHERE THE POPE IS BURIED?
  • IS ATTENDANCE AT MASS REQUIRED DURING THE POPE'S FUNERAL?
  • WHY IS THE POPE'S RING SMASHED AFTER HE DIES?
  • IS THE POPE'S BODY EMBALMED?
  • WHAT ACCOMMODATIONS WERE THERE FOR THE PEOPLE WAITING ON LINE FOR HOURS TO VIEW THE POPE'S BODY?

    Questions About Pope John Paul II & the Papacy
  • WHAT IS THE POPE'S ROLE IN THE CHURCH?
  • CAN THE POPE RESIGN?
  • DID THE POPE KNOW HE WAS DYING?
  • DID THE POPE HAVE A SON?
  • WHO SHOT THE POPE AND WHY?
  • WHAT DOES IT SAY ON THE POPE'S MITER?
  • WHAT WAS THE POPE'S CONNECTION TO DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY?
  • DID THE POPE LOVE ANIMALS?
  • WHAT LANGUAGES DID THE POPE SPEAK?
  • IS THE POPE'S APARTMENT LOCKED PERMANENTLY AFTER HIS DEATH?
  • WHAT WERE THE SECRETS OF FATIMA AND DID THE POPE BELIEVE THEM?
  • WHAT POPES REIGNED BEFORE JOHN PAUL II SINCE 1939?

    Questions About Choosing a New Pope
  • WHAT IS A CONCLAVE?
  • WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR PAPAL CANDIDATES?
  • WHAT IS THE SELECTION PROCESS FOR THE NEW POPE?
  • WHY CAN'T THE NEXT POPE BE FROM THE U.S.?
  • HAS THERE EVER BEEN AN AFRICAN POPE?

    Questions About the Catholic Church
  • WHAT ARE THE LEVELS OF CHURCH HIERARCHY?
  • HOW LONG HAS THE PAPACY EXISTED?
  • HOW MANY POPES HAVE THERE BEEN?
  • WHAT IS A CARDINAL?
  • HOW DO I BECOME A CATHOLIC?
  • DOES THE POPE BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT?

    Questions About the Future of the Catholic Church
  • WILL THE CHURCH ELIMINATE CELIBACY REQUIREMENTS?
  • WILL THE CHURCH ORDAIN WOMEN?

    Who is the pope in the minds of Catholics and what scriptural basis is there for his role? What is his relation to Peter and what role does he play in God's plan?

    The pope is the Catholic bishop of Rome, and Catholics believe that they can trace a clear line of succession from John Paul II all the way back to the apostle Peter, who they believe was the first bishop of Rome. Catholics believe that Peter enjoyed primacy among the apostles, because Jesus said to him, "You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build by church...I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:18-19).
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