Surprise as Vatican officials exhume body of Pope John XXIII
Vatican officials made an unusual discovery after exhuming the body of Pope John XXIII -- his face has not changed since his death 37 years ago.
Italian media reported on Saturday that the former pontiff, who was beatified last September, was exhumed on 16 January.
The move was part of the preparation for him to be moved to a new spot in the basilica of St Peters. But officials found that his face had not decomposed, Ansa news agency said, quoting a Vatican document on the exhumation.
Popes are buried in ceremonial dress and are not embalmed. However, Pope John XXIII was treated with the preservative formalin to prepare his body before it was laid out in state, Ansa said.
It was unusual but not extraordinary that his face had not decomposed, it added.
The pope is due to be moved from the cave under the basilica, where many popes are buried, to a new position on the main floor of the basilica to help cope with the flow of pilgrims who come to pray at his tomb. The cave under the basilica is very narrow and the pilgrims rapidly block the passage.