Pope Francis leads final farewell to Benedict before thousands.
In front of tens of thousands of mourners in St. Peter’s Square on Thursday, Pope Francis presided over his predecessor Benedict XVI’s burial, a modern-day first.
Thousands of priests and nuns from all over the world attended to bid farewell to the German theologian, who shocked the Catholic church in 2013 by becoming the first pontiff to resign in six centuries, as well as scarlet-clad cardinals, dignitaries, and others.
Francis, the current pope, presided over the papal funeral for the first time in modern history. He gave the homily in Italian as part of a bilingual service that also included a Latin mass.
“Benedict… may your joy be complete as you hear his (God’s) voice, now and forever!” the pontiff said in tribute to his predecessor, who died on Saturday aged 95.
After the service, Francis kneeled and made the sign of the cross over Benedict’s plain coffin made of cypress wood, which the pallbearers then took inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
Benedict will be buried in the same tomb where John Paul II’s body was previously interred before it was moved for his beatification in 2011. This tomb is located in the Vatican Grottoes beneath the basilica. In 2014, the pontiff from Poland was declared a saint.
In a private ceremony following his funeral on Thursday, Benedict’s body was placed in a wood casket, sealed, and fastened with a crimson ribbon inside a zinc coffin.
Alongside his body were laid coins and medals that were produced during his pontificate as well as a written document that summarized it and was contained in a metal cylinder.
The former pope, Joseph Ratzinger, had not presided over a nation for ten years, yet world leaders like German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni were among those in attendance.
Additionally there was 90-year-old Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was permitted to travel by a court after being detained last year in accordance with the city’s national security regulations.
Police believe that 50,000 people attended the burial in St. Peter’s Square, many of whom stood in line in the heavy fog since sunrise.
“Benedict is a bit like my father, so I had to pay homage to him,” said Cristina Grisanti, a 59-year-old from Milan, who hailed the former pope’s “purity, his candour, his mildness”
When the remains was lying in state at the basilica earlier in the week, an estimated 195,000 visitors had already shown their respect. At the conclusion of the funeral on Thursday, church bells sounded out across Benedict’s native Germany, and there were many Germans in the throng, some wearing lederhosen.
“We owe him so much. We want to show that we stand behind him,” said Benedikt Rothweiler, 34, who came from Aachen with his family. He always accepted everything the way God wants it. This is a good example for us humans
Benedict was a great theologian, but he was also a contentious character who alienated many Catholics by vehemently supporting conservative orthodoxy on topics like abortion.