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Teachers: PSHE: Loss

Last Updated: Friday April 08 2005 16:21 GMT

Marking the Pope's death

PSHE 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Dealing with loss


The funeral of Pope John Paul II has taken place in Rome.

Thousands of pilgrims camped out overnight on roads leading up to St Peter's square, and at dawn Italian police began letting people in.

Students discuss the value of memorials and design their own to commemorate the death of the Pope or another religious leader.

Learning aims
  • How memorials help grieving
  • Different types of memorial

Mourners light candles outside the Vatican

More resorces:

Read out this story to students and ask them to answer the following questions.
They are available as a printable worksheet.

Questions and answers:

1. What is St Peter's Basilica? The church off St Peter's Square in the Vatican, the world's smallest country run by the Pope.

2. Up to two million people will file past the Pope's open coffin? What do you think they will gain from viewing his body?

3. What does "lying in state" mean? People viewing the dead body of an important public figure before burial.

4. Why do you think Italian officials and important Vatican figures get to view his body first?

5. What will happen to the Pope's body now? There will be a funeral in St Peter's Square in the Vatican. The Pope is expected to be buried, alongside other popes, in the crypt under the main altar of St Peter's Basilica.

6. Why did the crowds in St Peter's Square give a huge round of applause when the Pope's death was announced? It is an Italian sign of respect.

7. What did the crowd do after the applause? They stayed silent for several minutes. Why do you think they did this?

8. Services of remembrance are taking place at Catholic churches throughout the world too. How does a memorial service help with grieving?

9. Why do people make memorials and tributes?


The Pope's body lies in state in the Vatican

Print out a copy of this worksheet for each student.

Ask them to define the words:

  • ritual
  • tradition
  • ceremony A quarter of the class answer questions on memorial rituals across the world.

    A quarter answer questions on rituals immediately after the Pope dies.

    A quarter answer questions on funeral ceremonies.

    A quarter answer questions on choosing a new Pope: Traditions.

    Main activity

    Ask students:

    • What different types of memorial can you think of? Gravestones, war monuments, places where famous people lived etc.

    • What might be a fitting permanent memorial for Pope John Paul II?
    Present and discuss some of the memorial ideas that can be found in the Teachers' Background.

    Pope John Paul II
    Students can either:

    • Design a fitting memorial for the Pope or another religious leader.

    • Write a poem to remember his life.
    Ideas might include:
    • A statue of the Pope or another religious leader
    • A sculpture that symbolises some of the their qualities

    • An event e.g. music concert to celebrate the their achievements
    • A park dedicated to their memory
    Students should include an explanation of the thinking behind their memorial design or poem.

    Extension activity

    Students construct a model of their memorial.

    About 30cm in height should be fine so that the ideas can be displayed more easily.


    Students present their designs and poems and explain their thinking behind them.

    Teachers' Background

    Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park

    It contains very moving displays of the effects of the atomic bombing.

    In front of the building is a statue called Mother and Child in the Storm and the Fountain of Prayer.

    Colourful origami cranes are left on most of the memorials, monuments and statues in the park as a symbol of visitors' wish for Peace.

    Washington DC World War II Memorial

    It honours the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the US, the more than 400,000 people who died and everyone who helped the war effort from America.

    It consists of a "Rainbow Pool" surrounded in a circular pattern with 56 pillars to represent the unity of the US states and territories during the war.

    Visitors enter the sunken plaza on ramps and pass by two giant arches representing the two fronts of the war.

    Inside there is be a Freedom Wall covered with 4,000 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died during World War II.

    Memorial for the Murdered Jews in Europe, Berlin, Germany
    Memorial for the Murdered Jews in Europe, Berlin, Germany

    Designed by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman, it consists of 2,751 charcoal-coloured concrete slabs.

    It commemorates the 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis. It was opened on May 10, 2005.

    For hundreds more news-based lessons, click on Teachers on the left hand side.

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