April 4, 2005 at 8:25 PM CDT - Updated July 2 at 2:00 AM
After the death of a pope, the Cardinal Camerlengo becomes the non-theological authority for the Catholic Church. The Camerlengo, or chamberlain, is theVatican's Secretary of State.
The Camerlengo confirms the death of the pope by calling him by his baptismal name three times without response. He then authorizes the death certificate and seals the pope's private residence.
At the time of death, the Ring of the Fisherman which the pope receives from the Camerlengo upon election, is removed. This gold ring includes an image of St. Peter in a boat, fishing and is encircled by the name of the current pope. The ring and the pope's seals are destroyed.
The Camerlengo then organizes and presides over the election of the next pope .
The papal funeral rites begin with the "novemdieles", the nine days of mourning. No photographs or film is allowed of the pope while he is on his sickbed or after his death. The Camerlengo may permit post-mortem photographs for documentary purposes only after the pope is attired in his pontifical vestments.
Before burial, the pope's body is placed in three coffins, each inside the other. The three coffins are made of cypress, elm, and lead. Typically, the pope is then buried in the tombs below St. Peter's Basilica, where St. Peter is buried.