Pope Francis to conduct ex-pontiff Benedict XVI’s burial service

Pope Francis to conduct ex-pontiff Benedict XVI's burial service
Pope Francis to conduct ex-pontiff Benedict XVI's burial service

A reigning pope will preside over his predecessor’s funeral for the first time in modern history next week. Pope Francis will conduct a “simple” service for Benedict XVI, who passed away on Saturday.

First pope to step down since the Middle Ages, Benedict lived within the Vatican and continued to wear all white while giving up the papal throne.

At a press conference after his passing, Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni informed journalists that the 95-year-old would receive a “solemn but simple” funeral on Thursday.

What would happen next was unclear following the ex-rapid pope’s decline in health earlier this week.

It is said that when a Roman Catholic pope passes away, long-standing customs are typically triggered, but questions about if someone who had renounced the office will still receive papal treatment, has been asked.

Unlike when other popes have passed away, Francis, who was chosen to succeed Benedict in 2013, is still in office, thus there is no need to convene a conclave to elect a new pontiff.

A pope must be buried between four and six days after passing away, per regulations established in 1996.

The cardinals, who convene from all around the world and also plan the Vatican’s nine days of mourning, known as novemdiales, normally decide how and when he is buried.

They make their choice because the passing of a pope typically leaves a void in the church’s hierarchy of power.

In this instance, Francis is in command, so there is no such vacuum.

The ex-funeral pope’s will be held on Thursday at 9:30am in St. Peter’s Space, the large square in front of the basilica (0830 GMT).

“As the Pope Emeritus wished, the funeral will be simple,” Bruni told journalists.

The world was made aware of Benedict’s frailty on Wednesday when Francis urged Catholics everywhere to pray for him.

Later, after Benedict retired, he made a visit to him at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery located inside the Vatican gardens.

The Catholic practice of “the anointment of the sick,” or “last rites,” in which a person’s soul is purified of sins in preparation for the afterlife, was performed on the ex-pope the same day, according to Bruni.

That was done in front of the Memores Domini, four lay women who shared his residence with him, at the conclusion of a mass.

The body of the German pope, Joseph Ratzinger, will remain in the monastery until early on Monday.

The body will then be transported to St. Peter’s Basilica to lie in state there for three days so that the faithful may pay their respects.

Ratzinger, who was a senior cardinal at the time, presided over the burial liturgy in St. Peter’s Square for John Paul II, the last pope to pass away, in 2005.

Along with leaders of state from all across the world, there were reportedly one million attendees.

Official delegations from Italy and the former pope’s native Germany will attend the funeral, according to the Vatican.

Afterwards, “the coffin of the Supreme Pontiff Emeritus will be taken to St Peter’s Basilica, and then into the Vatican Grottoes for burial”, the Vatican said.

In 2020, media sources claimed Benedict had made the decision to rest in the crypt of St. Peter’s, which houses the former tomb of Pope John Paul II.

When the adored Polish pope was declared beatified in 2011, his body was transferred to the basilica’s upper level. In 2014, his sainthood was confirmed.

When a pope passes away, it is customary to also destroy his “Fisherman’s Ring,” a signet ring that is made especially for each new pope and was originally used to seal official documents.

For instance, when Benedict left office, the face of his ring was etched with a “X” to make it unusable.