February 2, 2023
An image of former Pope Benedict is seen as the faithful attend his funeral, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, January 5, 2023. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Fac Ei Sanctum

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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is laid to rest in a Vatican crypt with supporters calling for his immediate sainthood

Pope Francis led the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Thursday, tenderly touching the coffin of his predecessor as he stood supported on a cane before tens of thousands of mourners, with some calling for the late pontiff to be made a saint.

Benedict’s death on Saturday brought to an end a decade of the former and present pope living side-by-side in the Vatican and it was the first time in more than 200 years that a pontiff had led the service for his predecessor.

His death was a loss for conservatives who yearned for a return to a more traditional Church symbolised by Benedict, who shocked the world in 2013, by becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign instead of reigning for life.

At the end of the funeral in St. Peter’s Square, some people shouted in Italian “Santo Subito!” (Make him a saint now!). It was the same phrase used at the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005, although by many more people then. While many leading figures have praised Benedict since his death, criticism has also been aired, including by victims of clergy sexual abuse, who have accused him of seeking to protect the Church at all costs.

Francis, who sat for most of the service because of a knee ailment, including while he read the homily, in which he only mentioned Benedict by name once at the service attended by 50,000 people in a fog-shrouded square, concelebrated by 125 cardinals, 200 bishops and about 3,700 priests, Francis spoke of the “wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon us over the years”.

An account of Benedict’s papacy, along with other items, including Vatican coins minted during his reign, was tucked into his coffin. The account, written in Latin, says Benedict “fought with firmness” against sexual abuse by clergy in the Church.

Even though Benedict largely avoided public appearances after his resignation, he remained a standard-bearer for Catholic conservatives, who felt alienated by reforms ushered in by Francis, including cracking down on the old Latin Mass.

In Tweets, author Rod Dreher, an influential figure for U.S. Christian conservatives, called the homily “appalling”. Dreher decried “the meanness, the stinginess, of Francis’s meager words today”.

The last time a reigning pope had presided over the funeral of a predecessor was in 1802, when Pius VII led the service for Pius VI, whose body returned to the Vatican after he died in 1799 in exile.

At his request, Benedict was buried in the underground Vatican grottoes in the niche where first Pope John XXIII and then John Paul II were interred before their remains were transferred to more prominent places in the basilica above.

Source Vatican News Agency/Reuters

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