The historic funeral of Pope Benedict XVI takes place in the Vatican under the direction of Pope Francis | world news

Pope Benedict’s funeral was held at the Vatican, the first time in hundreds of years that a funeral service for a former pope has been presided over by a current pope.

Prior to the service, Benedict’s body had been laid out in St. Peter’s Basilica, dressed in robes and holding a rosary, allowing tens of thousands of mourners to file past.

At first, pallbearers carried Benedict’s coffin out of the huge church and placed it at an altar in front of St. Peter’s Square.

Inside the vast space, thousands of people had gathered, including heads of state, royalty and clergy from around the world.

Pope Francis, 86, who arrived in a wheelchair and wearing the crimson vestments typical of papal funerals, began with the rites of introduction.

The service began with a prayer and Francis closed it an hour later by solemnly blessing the coffin – decorated only with the former pope’s coat of arms.

During the homily, Francis appeared to compare Benedict to Jesus, including his last words before his death on the cross, when he said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

But the current pope did not dwell on the specific legacy of Benedict XVI and only mentioned his name once.

He said: “Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom [Jesus]may your joy be complete in hearing his voice, now and forever”, before adding that the ecclesial community wanted to “hand over our brother into the hands of the Father”.

After a period of silence, before the universal prayer, the words “for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who fell asleep in the Lord, may the Eternal Shepherd receive him into his kingdom of light and peace”, were read.

‘Santo Subito!’

During the service, he was laid out in a cypress wood coffin first surrounded by zinc with another wooden coffin inside.

Some in the crowd were holding banners or shouting “Santo Subito!”, Italian for “Sainthood Now!” – an echo of appeals launched during the funeral in 2005 of John Paul II, the last deceased pope.

After the ceremony, at his own request, Benedict was to be buried in the crypt under St. Peter, in an area once occupied by the coffin of John Paul II.

Benedict was buried with a Latin document that detailed some of the more notable occurrences of his papacy, as well as coins and other papal regalia.

A general view during the funeral of former Pope Benedict in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, January 5, 2023. REUTERS / Yara Nardi

Why Benedict Wasn’t Pope When He Died

Ten years ago, Benedict XVI made the rare decision to step down as pope, citing “advanced age” as the main reason he was no longer strong enough to lead the Church.

In his later years, Benedict lived in a monastery in the Vatican Gardens. He continued to wear white and did not revert to his former name, instead being called Pope Emeritus. A decision criticized at the time.

Ahead of the funeral, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, personal secretary to Benedict XVI, told Vatican News the late pope’s last words.

In a final profession of love to the Lord, Gaenswein said, “With just a whisper of voices, but in a clearly distinct way, [Benedict] said in Italian: “Lord, I love you!” I wasn’t there at the time, but the nurse told me about it shortly after.”

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