On today’s date in 2005, about 300,000 worshippers and more than 100 world leaders flooded St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City for the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
Held six days after John Paul II’s death on April 2, it was the largest funeral in the history of the Roman Catholic Church and brought together an array of world leaders, surpassing the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965. Four kings, five queens, more than a dozen leaders of other religions and at least 70 presidents and prime ministers attended the solemn gathering. Canadian dignitaries included then Prime Minister Paul Martin and his wife Sheila, then leader of the opposition Stephen Harper and Head of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine.
John Paul II’s funeral is believed to be one of the largest gatherings of Christianity ever with an estimate of more than four million mourners gathering in Rome. Memorial masses were held by various religions around the world to coincide with the funeral.
Pope John Paul II was buried in the grotto under St. Peter’s Basilica.
2014 POPE COINS
In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint featured the former pope on two coins – a $25 gold coin and a $10 silver coin – in commemoration of his achievements and canonization on April 27, 2014.
The coins’ designs are based on a photograph of John Paul II offering Mass during his first visit to Canada in 1984. The image captures the pope as he raises the consecrated host. With a mintage of 1,500 pieces, the gold coin weighs 7.8 grams and has a diameter of 20 mm. The silver coin has a mintage of 8,500 pieces, a weight of 23.17 grams and a diameter of 36.07 millimetres.