The Catholic Church honored the deceased Pope Benedict XVI with a festive funeral service. honored – while the incumbent Pope Francis was there. The rush was limited.
The Catholic Church bid farewell to Benedict XVI in Rome. taken. The requiem for the Pope Emeritus in St. Peter’s Square was conducted by Benedict’s successor Francis on Thursday.
Compared to the funeral mass for the “Pope of the Century” John Paul II in 2005, the crowd of believers was rather small. According to the Vatican, an estimated 50,000 believers attended. The former pontiff was then buried in a small ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, closed to the public. Benedict, whose real name is Joseph Ratzinger, died last Saturday at the Vatican at the age of 95.
The funeral mass for Benedict was new ceremonial territory for the Catholic Church, because with him a retired pope was buried for the first time in centuries and no successor had to be elected. The liturgy was slightly altered compared to a traditional funeral service for a pope. The requiem was held mostly in Latin, but the intercessions were spoken in several languages, including German.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the funeral service as “moving”. Benedict was highly respected all over the world. “He passed on the rich treasure of the Catholic Church to the believers with reason and soul,” said Steinmeier, who is a Protestant Christian himself. “That will mark the memory of him.” As far as sexual abuse in the church is concerned, Benedict felt obliged to deal with it.
Söder: “He was just Bayer”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), opposition leader and CDU leader Friedrich Merz and other top politicians in Berlin also attended the funeral service. The Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) emphasized: “He was not only one of the most important theologians of the 20th century, he was a philosopher, an intellectual – and he was just a Bavarian.” The delegation from Benedikt’s Bavarian homeland was particularly large: it included mountain riflemen, costumers, a brass band and the voluntary fire brigade from Pentling near Regensburg, where Ratzinger had actually wanted to spend the rest of his life.
Around 130 cardinals from all over the world lined up in their festive robes on the square. Shortly before the beginning of the requiem, Benedict’s longtime confidant and private secretary, Georg Gänswein, bent over the coffin and kissed it. Other high German clergymen who celebrated the service were Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki and the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller. The chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Georg Bätzing, said that such a Pope’s funeral touched the whole world.
“Benedict, you faithful friend of the bridegroom”
Francis was wheeled into the square. In his sermon he made little direct reference to his predecessor. The Bavarian bishops Stefan Oster (Passau) and Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg) found this appropriate. This is how Benedict would have liked the sermon, said Oster. Above all, the Argentine spoke generally about devotion to God and trust in the Lord. Only at the very end did he say: “Benedict, you faithful friend of the bridegroom, may your joy be complete when you finally and forever hear his voice!” Jesus is often referred to as the bridegroom in the Catholic Church.
After the mass, there were occasional calls of “Santo Subito” on the square – i.e. demands for the canonization of the deceased. Bätzing is still too early. “I don’t think now is the time,” he said after the fair. On the other hand, private secretary Gänswein had predicted a few days ago on the Catholic broadcaster EWTN: “I think things will go in this direction.”
After the requiem, the simple wooden coffin containing Benedict’s body was taken to St. Peter’s Basilica. Before the coffin disappeared into the basilica, Pope Francis blessed it, touched it with his hand and bowed. Benedict was then buried in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica. The public was excluded from this part of the funeral ceremonies. Video footage from the Vatican showed how Benedict’s coffin was welded shut and Gänswein said goodbye to his mentor in tears at the final resting place.
Benedict now lies in the tomb of his predecessor, John Paul II, whose remains were moved to another location in the church years ago. After the death of the popular Pole, around three million people traveled to Rome in April 2005 – around 500,000 crowded around the Vatican during the requiem mass.
A letter summarizing his life was placed in the coffin of the deceased pontiff before the service. Among other things, it said: “He fought vigorously against the crimes committed by representatives of the clergy against minors or vulnerable persons and repeatedly called for conversion, prayer, penance and purification in the church.”
counteract “myth formation about the role of the deceased”.
During Benedict’s pontificate, there were a number of revelations of abuse scandals. He took measures to protect children and was the first pope to condemn the crimes. However, he did not change the structures that encouraged abuse in the Catholic Church. The Eckiger Tisch victims’ association called on the delegation from Germany who had traveled to the funeral to side with the victims of abuse. She should counter the “myth formation about the role of the deceased” in relation to the exposure of child sexual abuse by clerics of the Catholic Church, it said in a statement.
Benedict led the Catholic Church, which has well over a billion believers, from 2005 to 2013. His voluntary resignation was historic, as popes usually die in office. In the meantime, however, it is considered possible that Francis will also resign if his health deteriorates too much. After his resignation, Benedict lived as Pope Emeritus in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens.
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