Pope Francis paid tribute to his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, during a funeral in St. Petersburg on Thursday. St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City is marked by pomp and tradition.
The funeral marked the first time a pope has presided over the funeral of his predecessor in modern times. Benedict, the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign rather than serve for life, died on Dec. 31 at a convent in Vatican City at the age of 95.
Dignitaries and religious leaders lined the square, which can hold about 60,000 people, for the ceremony. Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Fiala was also in attendance, CNN affiliate CNN Prima reported.
The ceremony is similar to that of the reigning pope, with some modifications. Benedict was named pope emeritus at the funeral, with some prayers in a different language because he was not the reigning pope when he died.
Francis began presiding at Mass Thursday morning, during which he delivered a sermon around 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET). Members of the crowd later took communion.
During his homily, Francis said: “God’s faithful people, gathered here, now accompany and entrust to him the life of their pastor.”
“Like the women at the grave, we come with the fragrance of gratitude and the balm of hope, to show him again an undying love. We wish to Come do this. Together we want to say, “Father, we place his spirit into your hands. ”
“Benedict, faithful friend of the groom, may your joy be complete if you hear his voice now and forever,” Francis added.
Benedict’s coffin will then be transported through the cathedral to the Vatican crypt where it will be interred in the first tomb of John Paul II.
The tomb was emptied after the remains of John Paul II, and after he became a saint, the remains were moved to a chapel within the cathedral.
During the burial ceremony, a band will be placed around the coffin with the seals of the Apostolic Chamber, Apostolic House and liturgical celebrations. The cypress coffin was placed in a soldered and sealed zinc coffin, and then placed in a wooden coffin for burial.
The ceremony is expected to conclude at approximately 11:15 a.m. local time (5:15 a.m. ET).
High-profile dignitaries including Spain’s Queen Sofia and German Chancellor Olaf Schulz will attend the funeral along with Joe Donnelly, the US ambassador to the Holy See.
In April 2005, following the death of John Paul II, Benedict was elected pope. He is known to be more conservative than his successor, Pope Francis, who has moved to soften the Vatican’s stance on abortion and homosexuality and do more to address the sexual abuse crisis that has engulfed the church in recent years and cast a shadow over Benedict. legacy.
The scroll placed in Pope Benedict XVI’s coffin is a biography of his life, mentioning some of the most important moments of his presidency and recalling his “steadfast” fight against pedophilia.
“He stood firm against crimes committed by clergy against minors or vulnerable people, and made constant calls to the Church for conversion, prayer, repentance and purification,” the scroll said.
His death has drawn tributes from political and religious leaders including US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Dalai Lama.
Some 200,000 mourners, including Italian Prime Minister Giorgio Meloni and President Sergio Mattarella, paid tribute to the former pope at his rest in St. Petersburg earlier this week. St. Peter’s Basilica.
Benedict’s public viewing ended on Wednesday, followed by an intimate religious service that placed items including coins and medals minted during his tenure and scrolls about the Pope into his sealed cypress wood ahead of the funeral in the coffin.
Francis paid tribute to his predecessor in the Vatican audience on Wednesday.
“I hope we, together with those present here who have paid tribute to Pope Benedict XVI, turn my thoughts to him, a great catechist,” he said.
“May he help us rediscover the joy of believing and the hope of living in Christ.”