KRAKOW, Poland – Some officials in Krakow, where Pope John Paul II was archbishop, hope his heart can be buried in their cathedral alongside Poland’s medieval kings and saints, but a senior cardinal cast doubt on that happening.
“We would like the heart of the greatest Krakovian and the greatest Pole to rest at Wawel (Cathedral),” Mayor Jacek Majchrowski was quoted as saying Monday by the Gazeta Wyborcza daily. “But the rules are set by the church and we will respect them.”
The heart of another great Pole, composer Frederic Chopin, rests in an urn in Warsaw’s Holy Cross Church, although the rest of his body is buried at Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
The College of Cardinals said Monday the pope’s remains would be interred in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Asked if this ruled out sending his heart to Poland, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls did not directly reply, saying he was merely transmitting information on decisions taken by the cardinals.
In an interview with Rzeszpospolita daily, Krakow’s Cardinal Franciszek Macharski said the age of dismembering the corpses of great figures had passed.
“There was once this Romantic custom that after death parts of the body of known and loved people be placed in important places,” Macharski said. “This tradition is no longer ours. Respect for the human body says that it ought to be laid in a grave.”
The pope is revered in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Poland as a national as well as spiritual leader for his role in inspiring resistance to the communist regime, which fell peacefully in 1989-90. His life has special meaning in Krakow, where he studied for the priesthood and rose within the church from a young priest to bishop, archbishop and cardinal.
He celebrated his first Mass as a young priest in the 12th-century crypt of St. Leonard beneath the cathedral.
“Having the heart of the greatest citizen of Krakow lay in Wawel would be the greatest honor for us,” city spokesman Marcin Helbin told the Associated Press.