VATICAN CITY ( Associated Press) – Pope Francis prayed for his predecessor’s ascension to heaven and reiterated his gratitude for a lifetime of service to the church during his New Year’s Eve presentations a day after the death of the retired pope. Did.
St Peter’s Basilica, where Francis presided over a mid-morning New Year’s mass, will hold Benedict’s body from Monday. Thousands of worshipers are expected to pass by the casket on the first of three days at the funeral chapel.
Benedict, 95, died on Saturday morning at the Vatican, where he had been living since his resignation. He was the first pope in centuries to leave office, which he argued was becoming increasingly fragile.
Francis looked weary and sat with his head bowed at the start of New Year’s Eve Mass, an occasion the Catholic Church dedicates to the theme of peace.
For a moment he stopped his homily to pray aloud for Benedict, focusing on hope and peace.
“Today we entrust our Holiness Mother, our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, to accompany her from this world on her way to God,” he said.
Later, Francis made more comments about the retired pontiff when he extended his New Year greetings to the thousands gathered in St Peter’s Square.
Referring to the Virgin Mary, Francis said that “in these hours, we invoke her intercession, especially for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who left this world yesterday morning.”
Addressing pilgrims and tourists from a window of the Apostolic Palace, Francis declared, “Let us all together, with one heart and one spirit, thank God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and the Church.”
Benedict’s funeral will take place in the square on Thursday morning, with Francis presiding. The rite will be simple, the Vatican said, to comply with the wishes of Benedict, who for decades as a German cardinal served as guardian of the church’s doctrinal orthodoxy before being elected to the position in 2005.
In recent years, Francis has hailed his predecessor’s surprise decision to become the first pontiff to resign in 600 years and has made it clear that he too may consider that option.
Limping with knee pain, the 86-year-old Argentine pontiff arrived at the basilica in a wheelchair before taking his place for Mass celebrated by the Vatican’s secretary of state.
Francis, who has repeatedly criticized the war in Ukraine and its devastation, reminded victims of the conflict who spend the end-of-the-year holidays in darkness, cold and fear.
“At this beginning of the year we need hope, like the earth needs water,” he declared in his sermon.
Addressing the faithful in St Peter’s Square, Francis referred to the “intolerable” war in Ukraine, which began in February last year after the Russian invasion, and in other parts of the world.
Despite this, the pontiff said, “we must not give up hope” that peace will prevail. “Around the world, in all towns, a slogan is rising: ‘Not war, not rearmament’, but that resources go to development, health, food, education, work.”
Nicole Winfield contributed from the Vatican.