The funeral was the first time in modern times that a pope had presided over the funeral of his predecessor. Benedict, the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years, died at the age of 95 on December 31 in a monastery in Vatican City.
Dignitaries and religious leaders lined the square, which could seat around 60,000 people, to take part in the prestigious ceremony. Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Fiala was among those in attendance, according to CNN affiliate CNN Prima.
The ceremony was similar to that of the reigning Pope, but with some changes. Benedict was named pope emeritus during the funeral, and the language of some of the prayers was different because he was no longer the reigning pope when he died.
Francis began leading mass Thursday morning, during which he delivered a homily at 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET). Following this, a large number of people participated in joint prayers.
“The faithful people of God, gathered here, now accompany and entrust to him the life of their pastor,” Francis said.
“Like the women at the tomb, we have come with the fragrance of gratitude and the ointment of hope, to show Him once more our undying love. We want to do this with the same wisdom, tenderness, and devotion that He has blessed us with over the years. We want to say together: ‘Father, into your hands we commit his spirit.’
“Benedict, faithful friend of the bridegroom, may your joy be complete when you hear his voice, now and forever,” Francis added.
Francis began leading the Thursday morning mass when he was expected to preach at 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET).
Benedict’s coffin will be carried through the basilica and into the Vatican vault for burial in the Mausoleum of John Paul II.
The tomb was emptied after John Paul II’s body and remains were moved to a chapel within the basilica after his canonization.
At the time of burial during the rite, the seals of the Apostolic Chamber, Pontifical House and Liturgy are placed around the coffin. A cypress coffin is placed inside a zinc coffin, which is soldered and sealed, then placed inside a wooden coffin and buried.
The ceremony is expected to end at 11:15 a.m. local time (5:15 a.m. ET).
High-profile dignitaries including Spain’s Queen Sofia and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are expected to attend the funeral, along with US Ambassador to the Holy See Joe Donnelly.
He was elected Pope in April 2005 following the death of John Paul II.
Benedict is known to be more conservative than Pope Francis, who has made moves to soften the Vatican’s stance on abortion and homosexuality, as well as making more efforts to tackle the sex-abuse crisis that has engulfed the church in recent years. Benedict’s legacy.
The scroll placed in the coffin of Pope Benedict XVI, which addresses some of the most important moments of his life and his tenure, reminds us that he “resolutely” fought against pedophilia.
“He fought resolutely against crimes committed by the clergy against children or vulnerable persons, constantly calling the Church to conversion, prayer, penance and purification,” the scroll says.
Political and religious leaders including US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Dalai Lama paid tribute to his death.
Some 200,000 mourners, including Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President Sergio Mattarella, paid their respects to the former pontiff earlier this week as he lay in state in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Benedict’s public viewing ended on Wednesday, during an intimate religious ceremony where items from his tenure, including coins and medals and a scroll of pontificate, were placed in his sealed Cypriot coffin ahead of the funeral.
Francis paid tribute to his predecessor during a meeting at the Vatican on Wednesday.
“I want us to join those on our side who pay homage to Benedict XVI, and my thoughts as a great master in catechesis,” he said.
“May he help us rediscover the joy of faith in Christ and hope for life.”
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