Pope Francis presided over the funeral of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Thursday, January 5, in the presence of 50,000 faithful, including heads of state and royalty.
The body of the pope emeritus was transferred to the basilica where a ritual of blessing was held. The coffin was then moved inside St. Peter’s Basilica for burial.
About 4,000 cardinals attended the Mass. “Benedict (…) may your joy be perfect when you hear the voice (of God), definitively and forever!” the pope said during his homily from the altar overlooking the huge esplanade in front of the basilica. The mass, in Latin and in several languages, was concelebrated by more than 4,000 cardinals. But its exceptional character lay in the presence of a pope at the funeral of his predecessor, a first in the recent history of the Church.
At the end of the ceremony, the coffin was transported inside the majestic St. Peter’s Basilica, where he was buried in the crypt where his predecessor, John Paul II, rested until his beatification in 2011, when his coffin was moved.
Earlier, Pope Francis, standing and leaning on a cane, made the sign of the cross in front of the coffin, touched it briefly and then bowed his head in
Among the many heads of state and government present in the assembly was German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a compatriot of the late Pope. The bells rang at 11 a.m. local time in several German cities, including Benedict XVI’s home town of Markt in Bavaria.
In accordance with tradition, the cypress coffin of Benedict XVI contains coins and medals minted during his pontificate, his pallium (liturgical vestment) and a text briefly describing his pontificate, placed in a metal cylinder.
Such an event is a first in the recent history of the Catholic Church, which has 1.3 billion faithful worldwide. In 1802, Pius VII had celebrated the funeral of Pius VI, who had died in exile in France three years earlier, but Pius VI had not renounced his office.
The death of Benedict XVI puts an end to ten years of cohabitation between two men in white in the Vatican, something unheard of in the Church’s two thousand year history. His pontificate was marked by multiple crises, such as the Vatileaks scandal in 2012, which had exposed a vast network of corruption in the Vatican.
Portugal has declared a day of national mourning. In memory of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, announced Wednesday the Portuguese Presidency. The head of the Portuguese state, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, fervent Catholic, is part of the political figures expected at the Vatican to attend the funeral of Benedict XVI. France is represented by the Minister of the Interior and Religious Affairs, Gérald Darmanin.