Monday, February 6, 2023

Thousands bid farewell to Benedict XVI at Pope’s funeral

VATICAN CITY ( Associated Press) — As bells chimed, thousands of worshippers, political leaders and the pope himself bid a final farewell Thursday to German theologian Benedict XVI, who made history by retiring from office, in a rare condolence gathering. The dead pontiff is presided over by his substitute.

Crowds cheered as bearers carried Benedict’s cypress casket from the mist-shrouded St. Peter’s Basilica on their shoulders and placed it in front of an altar set up in the vast square outside.

Francis, decked out in the crimson vestments of papal funeraries, began the mass with a prayer and closed it an hour later with a holy blessing of the simple coffin, decorated only with the emeritus pope’s coat of arms. Later, he was buried in the Vatican Grotto.

Heads of state and royalty, clergy and thousands of faithful from around the world attended the Vatican despite calls by the Pope Emeritus for a simple farewell and efforts by the Holy See to hold the first funeral of a para emeritus in modern times.

Many came from Bavaria, a native of former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and wore traditional clothing, including woolen coats, to protect against the morning chill.

“We have come to pay homage to Benedict and we wanted to say goodbye here today,” said Raymond Mainar, who traveled from the small town of Munich for the funeral. “He was a very good father.”

The retired pope, who died on December 31 at the age of 95, is regarded as one of the great theologians of the 20th century and dedicated his life to defending church doctrine. But he will go down in history for a singular and revolutionary announcement that changed the future of the papacy: he became the first pope in six centuries to retire.

Finally ignoring calls for decorum, some in the crowd raised banners or chanted “Santo Subito!” (“Holiness now!”), in a repetition of spontaneous chants during the funeral of Saint John Paul II in 2005.

The retired pope, who died on December 31 at the age of 95, is regarded as one of the great theologians of the 20th century and dedicated his life to defending church doctrine. But he will go down in history for a singular and revolutionary announcement that changed the future of the papacy: he became the first pope in six centuries to retire.

Francis praised his courage in stepping aside, noting that he “opened the door” for others to do the same.

The Vatican said Thursday’s mass was attended by some 50,000 people, with some 200,000 passing through the basilica during the three days it hosted the funeral chapel.

Only Italy and Germany were invited to send official delegations, but other leaders accepted the Vatican’s offer and came in a “private capacity”. They included several other heads of state, at least four prime ministers, and two delegations from royal houses. In addition, several Orthodox patriarchs joined the 125 cardinals seated at the altar, and the Russian Orthodox Church sent its head of foreign affairs.

Among those in attendance was Cardinal Joseph Jane of Hong Kong, who obtained special judicial permission to attend the event. Zen was detained in May under a Chinese national security law for alleged collaboration with foreign forces, now because of his involvement in the pro-democracy movement. After his arrest, the authorities took back his passport.

Many of the late Pope’s confidants were present at the Mass, and Archbishop Georg Ganswein, his secretary for many years, bowed and kissed a copy of the Gospel unfolded on the casket before the funeral service began.

Early Thursday, the Vatican released the official history of Benedict XVI’s life, a short document in Latin that was placed in a metal cylinder inside his coffin before it was sealed, along with his papacy and his canopy during the stole With coins and medals.

The document draws widespread attention to his historic retirement and refers to Benedict as “pope emeritus”, quoting the Latin phrase he said in his February 11, 2013 proclamation.

Francis made no specific mention of his predecessor’s legacy in his homily, naming him only once in the final sentence, instead using a reflection on Jesus’ willingness to surrender to God’s will.

“We too, as a ecclesial community, want to follow in his footsteps and commit our brothers to the Father, clinging to the last words of the Lord and the testimony of his life,” Francis said.

Benedict’s legacy was destroyed by the clergy sex abuse scandal, even though he was the first to acknowledge the “filth” of child rapists and lay the groundwork for the Vatican to punish them.

After mass, Benedict XVI’s cypress coffin was placed inside a zinc coffin, which was in turn placed inside a third oak coffin before burial in the crypt beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, where St. John Paul II had previously been buried. was the grave of being taken to the top floor.

Although the funeral was unusual, there is a precedent: in 1802, Pope Pius VII performed the funeral rites in St Peter’s for his predecessor Pius VI, who had died in exile in France in 1799 as a prisoner of Napoleon.

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Associated Press Writer Trisha Thomas contributed to this report.

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