VATICAN CITY (AP) – The bell rings on Thursday for Funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVIThe German theologian who made history by retirement thousands of mourners packed St Peter’s Square for a rare requiem mass of a dead pontiff presided over by a living pontiff.

The faithful applauded as pallbearers carried Benedict’s cypress coffin out of the fog-shrouded St. Peter’s Basilica and placed it before the altar. Benedict’s longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, looked at the red-robed priest, bent down and kissed a book of the Gospels that had been left open on the sarcophagus.

Heads of state and royalty, clergy and thousands of regular people from around the world continued to flock to the Vatican despite Benedict’s simplicity and official efforts to keep the funeral for the first retired pope in modern times low-key.

Many were from Benedict’s native Bavaria and wore traditional dress, including boiled woolen coats, to protect against the morning chill.

“We came to pay tribute to Benedict and wanted to be here today to say goodbye,” said Raymond Mainar, who came from a small village in Munich for the funeral. “He was a very good Pope.”

Former Joseph Ratzinger, Who died on 31 December at the age of 95, is considered one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century and spent his entire life defending the doctrine of the Church. But he will be best known in history for a singular, revolutionary act that changed the future of the papacy: he retiredThe first pope in six centuries to do so.

Pope Francis praised Benedict’s courage in stepping down, saying it “opened the door” for other popes to do the same. Francis, for his part, recently said he has already left written instructions outlining the conditions under which he too will resign.

Francis was presiding over the funeral, which officials estimated would be attended by around 100,000 people, higher than the original estimate of 60,000, Italian media reported, citing police security plans.

On Thursday, late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI arrives at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican for the funeral.

Only Italy and Germany were invited to send official delegations, but other heads of state and government took the Vatican up on their offer and came in their “private capacity”. They included several other heads of state, at least four prime ministers, and two delegations of royal representatives.

Matteo Colonna, a 20-year-old seminarian from Teramo, Italy, said he attended because of the historic nature of the funeral — but it also had personal resonance for him.

“The first spark of my vocation began under the pontificate of Benedict, but then it became even stronger under Pope Francis,” Colonna said as he prayed in St. Peter’s Square before the funeral. “I see a continuity between these two popes and the fact that Francis is celebrating Benedict’s funeral today is a historic event.”

Early Thursday the Vatican released the official history of Benedict’s life, a short document in Latin that was placed in a metal cylinder in his coffin before it was sealed, as well as coins and medals during his papacy and his pallium stole. with.

The document drew substantial attention to Benedict’s historic resignation and referred to him as “pope emeritus”, quoting verbatim the Latin words used on February 11, 2013, when he announced he would retire.

The document, known as the “rogito” or deed, also cited his religious and papal legacy, including his outreach to Anglicans and Jews and his efforts to combat clerical sexual abuse, “persistently calling the Church calling for conversion, prayer, penance and purification.”

funeral procession The ritual itself is modeled on the code was used for deceased popes, but with some modifications given to Benedict when he died, no longer the reigning pontiff.

After Mass, Benedict’s cypress casket was to be placed inside a pewter, then an outer oak casket before being passed into the crypt in the grottoes under St. Peter’s Basilica before carrying the tomb of St. John Paul II once more. I went. above.

While the ritual is novel, it has some precedent: in 1802, Pope Pius VII presided over the funeral in St. Peter’s of his predecessor, Pius VI, who had died in exile in France in 1799 as a prisoner of Napoleon.

Cardinals arrive at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican ahead of the funeral mass ceremony for the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Thursday.
Cardinals arrive at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican ahead of the funeral mass ceremony for the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Thursday.

Nearly 200,000 people paid homage to Benedict during three days of public viewings at the basilica, in which one of the last, Friar Rosario Vitale, spent an hour praying beside his body. He said that Benedict had given him a special dispensation to begin the process of becoming a priest, which was required because of a physical disability.

He said, “So today I have come here at his grave, to pray over his body and to say ‘thank you’ for my ministry, for my future priesthood.”

Benedict had never intended his retirement to last that long – at nearly 10 years it was longer than his eight-year pontificate. and the unprecedented position of a retired pope living with a reigning prompted call to protocol To guide future retired popes to prevent any confusion about who is really in charge.

During St. John Paul II’s quarter century as pope, Ratzinger led a crackdown on dissent as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, taking action against leftist liberation theology that spread in Latin America in the 1970s. theologians and nuns who defied the Vatican’s hard line on matters such as sexual morality.

His legacy was damaged by the clergy sex abuse scandal, even though he had already recognized the “filth” of priests raping children, and actually laid the groundwork for the Holy See to punish them.

As cardinal and pope, he passed sweeping church legislation that resulted in the removal of 848 priests from 2004–2014, roughly one year each at the end of his episcopate. But abuse survivors still held him responsible for the crisis, for failing to approve any bishops who took abusers around and identified embodying the clerical system Who protected the institution on the victims for a long time.

A group representing survivors of abuse by German priests called for more action from the Vatican on sexual abuse from German officials who attended Benedict’s funeral. Eckiger Tisch called on German leaders to demand that Francis issue a “universal church law” that stipulates zero tolerance in dealing with abuse by clergy.

The main US abuse survivor group SNAP said, “Any celebration that marks the life of those who promote abuse like Benedict must end.”

Associated Press reporter Trisha Thomas contributed.

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