Pope Benedict XVI funeral: Mourners gather for a ‘simple and sober ceremony’ – Top Updates | The Financial Express

Pope Benedict XVI funeral: Mourners gather for a ‘simple and sober ceremony’ – Top Updates

Honouring Benedict’s wishes, the ceremony will be simple and sober, said the Vatican.

Pope Benedict, Pope Benedict funeral, Catholic Church, St. Peter’s Square, Pope, Pope Francis
Pope Francis will lead the final rites for Benedict's funeral. (File photo: AP)

Former pope Benedict XVI, a hero to Roman Catholic conservatives who in 2013 became the first pontiff to resign as head of the Catholic Church since the Middle Ages, will be given a final farewell on Thursday. Pope Francis is all set to celebrate his funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square, an unprecedented event in which a current pope will celebrate the funeral for a former one. Calling his predecessor “a great master of catechesis”, Francis on Wednesday paid his respects to late Pope Benedict XVI, who died last Saturday at the age of 95. 

Thousands pour into St. Peter’s for funeral 

Thousands of mourners packed St. Peter’s Square to attend Thursday’s funeral in front of the imposing St. Peter’s Basilica. Honouring Benedict’s wishes, the ceremony will be simple and sober, said the Vatican.

The lying-in-state ended on Wednesday evening with around 200,000 people paying homage to former Pope Benedict XVI over the last three days. His body was sealed in a wooden coffin ready for the funeral. 

How the funeral will unfold

The coffin will be displayed for the public’s view on Thursday when it is carried out of the basilica. Around 60,000 followers have been invited to recite the rosary aloud in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis will preside over the funeral, delivering the homily and key invocations. Francis will lead the final rites for Benedict’s funeral. Sprinkling of blessed water and incense over the remains of Benedict during the reciting of formal farewell known in Latin as “Ultima Commendatio et Valedictio”. 

The place for the Benedict’s final resting 

Benedict’s remains will be moved to a crypt, underground burial place in Church, where John Paul’s tomb had rested. The remains of John Paul were moved upstairs into the main basilica for his 2011 beatification during the papacy of Benedict. 

Who’s who at  Benedict’s funeral 

Italy and Germany will send official delegations to the funeral. Bigwigs, including the king and queen of Belgium and the queen of Spain, and about 13 heads of state or government may attend in a private capacity. 

It will be a different scenario from the last papal funeral of Benedict’s charismatic predecessor, John Paul II in 2005, when several kings, presidents and prime ministers joined the ceremony to pay their respects. 

Criticism and scandal 

Benedict was a great theologian but his papacy was beleaguered with Vatican in-fighting. He was criticised for lack of leadership in the context of scandal over clerical sexual abuse of children that rocked the Catholic Church across the world. Benedict himself acknowledged that he was a weak administrator. After an eight-year papacy stint, he shell-shocked the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics in 2013 by resigning, citing the reason for his “advanced age”.

The scandal clouded his last leg of papacy after a report in January 2022 accused him of personally failing to stop four predatory priests in the 1980s while archbishop of Munich.

The Vatican strongly defended Benedict’s papacy as he was the first pope to have apologised for the scandals. Benedict denied wrongdoing, who expressed “deep remorse” and met with victims.

Benedict born in Bavaria

Benedict was born on April 16, 1927, at Marktl am Inn, in Bavaria. At the age of 78, he succeeded John Paul II, long-reigning and popular pope, in April 2005. His papacy was clouded with controversy.  

Despite his statement of remaining hidden from the world after the resignation, Benedict used to intervene on matters related to the Church by writing articles and giving interviews.

(With inputs from AP, Reuters)

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First published on: 05-01-2023 at 14:52 IST