John Paul II Exhumed Ahead Of Beatification

04/29/2011 02:12 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2011

The body of John Paul II was exhumed Friday ahead of the late pope's much-anticipated beatification, which takes place Sunday (May 1).

Following an early-morning service attended by several dozen people, including the nuns who ran the papal residency and the pope's longtime secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the coffin was placed before the tomb of St. Peter, where it will remain throughout the beatification process and until all who want to have seen it.

According to a brief from the Vatican, John Paul's casket is really three cases in one. The inner coffin is made of wood and was the one seen during the pope's funeral. This is within a sealed lead case, which is itself encased in another wood coffin. After the casket was removed and placed before the main altar of St. Peter's Basilica, it was covered with a large gold-embroidered cloth. The service ended around 9:15 in the morning.

After the beatification, an event that could draw some 2 million pilgrims to Rome, the casket will finally be placed under an altar in a chapel near Michaelangelo's statue of the Pieta, MSNBC reports. This will likely occur in the evening on Monday (May 2) after the Basilica is closed, according to the Vatican brief.

Though the beatification of Pope John Paul II has been called rushed by some, it is expected to be received joyously by most. In Poland especially, where the original marble slab that covered the pope's tomb is now being sent, celebration is afoot. Poles have already begun referring to their favorite son as John Paul the Great.

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