Pope in final farewell to Benedict
Benedict XVI, the eminent theologian who led the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics as a soft-spoken, if often besieged, traditionalist, and then became the first pope to resign in nearly six centuries, was buried on Thursday after a funeral on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica presided over by Pope Francis.
Francis, the first pontiff to preside over the funeral Mass for a pope who resigned, offered “our final farewell to Pope Emeritus Benedict” and commended him to “God, our merciful and loving Father”.
The service marked the end of an unusual arrangement. For years, two popes — one emeritus, one in power; one liberal, one conservative — co-existed on the Vatican grounds. By personally presiding over the funeral, Francis honoured his predecessor, who died last Saturday at age 95, but struck a delicate political balance.
To the sound of tolling bells, 12 pallbearers had carried the wooden coffin holding Benedict’s remains out of St Peter’s Basilica and placed it on the ground before the largest church in Christendom.
Applause broke out across the vast, cobbled esplanade, which was shrouded in mist, in a sign of respect for Benedict, a hero to Roman Catholic conservatives who shocked the world by resigning nearly a decade ago.
Francis arrived in the square in a wheelchair. Troubled by a bad knee, the pontiff sat in a chair looking down on the coffin, slightly hunched and glum-faced as choirs sung in Latin.
In his homily read from the same spot, Francis used more than a dozen biblical references and church writings in which he appeared to compare Benedict to Jesus, including his last word before he died on the cross: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
New York Times News Service and Reuters