Pope Francis Prays at Blessed John Paul II's Tomb

Holy Father also stopped to pray at the tombs of Blessed John XXIII and St. Pius X.

After St. Peter’s Basilica closed to the public this evening, Pope Francis prayed at the tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II to commemorate the eighth anniversary of his death.

In a statement, the Vatican said the Holy Father “spent a long time kneeling in silent prayer” at the late Pontiff’s tomb in the St. Sebastian Chapel of the basilica. Afterwards, he also "paused briefly in prayer" at the tombs of Blessed John XXIII and St. Pius X.

The Pope was accompanied by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the Vatican basilica, and personal secretary Msgr. Alfred Xuereb.

The Vatican said that, as happened yesterday, when the Pope visited the tomb of St. Peter and the Vatican grottos, tonight’s visit to the basilica “expresses the profound spiritual continuity of the Petrine ministry of popes, that Pope Francis lives and feels intensely, as he has also shown by his meeting and repeated telephone conversations with his predecessor, Benedict XVI.”

A further sign of this continuity was also shown yesterday when Pope Francis telephoned John XXIII’s personal secretary, Archbishop Loris Capovilla. The Pope wanted to thank the archbishop, now nearly 90, for his good wishes on his election. The call also coincided with the upcoming 50th anniversary of John XXIII’s most famous encyclical, Pacem in Terris, that was promulgated on April 11, 1963. The 50th anniversary of John XXIII's death also falls this year, on June 3.

In their conversation, Archbishop Capovilla said Pope Francis asked him “to pray to John XXIII to help the Pope and everyone to be better people.”