HOUSTON – With Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII to be canonized into saints on April 27, 2014 during a special mass at the Vatican, the National Museum of Funeral History offers the perfect opportunity this month to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event and learn more about these dignified individuals in the Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes exhibition, according to a news release.
Spanning more than 5,000 sq. ft., the papal exhibit, which opened in 2008 and is the largest permanent educational exhibit to the popes outside of the Vatican, explores the customs of electing and burying a pope, examines traditions that have withstood the test of time and gives visitors the opportunity to “virtually” experience a pope’s funeral. Museum exhibit designers worked directly with the Vatican for more than three years to create an authentic experience for visitors.
Using premium sound and lighting, three-dimensional scenes, multi-media presentations and numerous full-scale replicas, museum-goers walk through a life-size replica of St. Peter’s Basilica and are transported to the visitation of a pope lying in repose, followed by a funeral mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The exhibit includes reproductions of numerous Papal vestments, authentic uniforms worn by members of The Swiss Guard, which are responsible for the Pope’s personal security, photographs from the Vatican of the funerals of several different Pontiffs and more.
There are also items specifically connected to the beloved “People’s Pope,” John Paul II. “While the exhibit is not intended to be about Pope John Paul II,” said Genevieve Keeney, president of the National Museum of Funeral History, “it was inspired by him and created with him in mind after his death.” Pope John Paul II related items include the actual sash he wore daily with his cassock, photographs from his funeral mass and original burial in the grotto under St. Peter’s Basilica, a replica of his burial container and crypt, as well as an actual “Pope-mobile” used during Pope John Paul II’s 1982 trip to the United Kingdom.
When the exhibit opened in 2008, Roberto Casorssi, tailor to the Pope, toured the exhibit and exclaimed, “Perfecto! Perfecto! Perfecto! If I didn’t know I was in Houston, I would have thought I was back in Rome attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II once again.”
Just as the Popes’ agenda revolves around global unity, Houstonians of all backgrounds and faiths can gather at the National Museum of Funeral History to celebrate the making of a saint. “We might not ever have this chance again,” Keeney said, “especially since Pope John Paul II was someone we all came to know and love in our lifetime.”