St. Peter's Basilica St. Peter's is the largest church in the world. Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, commissioned the basilica's construction. The structure that today stands in Vatican City was designed by Michelangelo who died in 1624, two years before the dome was completed. St. Peter's Square, pictured here with the basilica in the background, became filled with mourners after Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005.
Procession with Pope's Body After the death of a pope, the funeral rites are celebrated for nine consecutive days during which a procession takes place. The procession, pictured here, involves the pope's body being carried from the Apostolic Palace to the center of St. Peter's Square. At Pope John Paul II's procession it is estimated that tens of thousands of people filled the square; many waited for more than eight hours for the chance to pay their respects to this revered pope.
Cardinals Gather The cardinals have many duties to attend to after the death of a pope: They alert members of the Catholic Church, apprise heads of nations around the world, plan the elaborate papal funeral, and convene the College of Cardinals to select a new pope. The conclave, during which the College of Cardinals elects the new pope, typically takes place in secret, within the Sistine Chapel 15 days after the pope's death.
Catholics Gather Pope John Paul II was an unusually garrulous and public pope, which meant that many people, young and old, Catholic and not, were touched by his life and by his death. However, the death of the pope brings the most emotional weight to practicing Catholics who loved him as a part of their day-to-day religious life. They came in thousands from countries around the world to pay their respects.
Anticipation Builds There are approximately one billion Catholics living in the world today. After the death of John Paul II, Catholics had to process the loss of their spiritual leader, then had to contend with the fact that a new pope would be selected. Many Catholics, especially those who crave change in the church, were apprehensive about who the cardinals would select. Citra Abbott, pictured here, nervously anticipates the announcement of the new pope. As a conservative Catholic, she is thrilled with the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Papal Vestments Just off Piazza Minerva in central Rome, one can find Gammarelli, the tailor who attends to the clothing needs of cardinals, monsignors and the pope. Seamstresses, like the one pictured here, must help Gammarelli create the papal vestments to be worn by the new pope as he addresses the crowd in St. Peter's Square. The clothing the pope will wear, including the zucchetto (papal hat) is displayed in Gammarelli's shop window for passersby to admire.
White Smoke After the conclave is complete, the cardinals send a stream of white smoke out of a chimney atop the Sistine Chapel, informing the crowd that a decision has been made. During Pope Benedict XVI's election, confusion reigned among the crowd, as people argued over whether the smoke was white or black. Luckily the mayhem was calmed by the ringing of bells in St. Peter's Square, signifying that Catholics everywhere did indeed have a new pope.
The Crowd Reacts In this photo, an unidentified nun gleefully lifts her cell phone to convey the momentous news of the election of a new pope by the College of Cardinals. Moments earlier, white smoke issued from a chimney atop Michelangelo's magnificent Sistine Chapel, accompanied by the tolling of Vatican bells. The announcement of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, who was chosen on the fourth ballot taken by the 115 elegible cardinals, caused many to burst into tears.
Pope Benedict XVI This photo depicts newly elected Pope Benedict XVI greeting the crowd from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on Tuesday, April 19, 2005. "It is an act of trust that gives encouragement to take off into this new mission with more serenity, because I am able to count ... on your generous collaboration," the pope said in a speech to the College of Cardinals. The new pontiff was installed as the 265th pope at a formal mass the following Sunday.