Pope Francis has delivered a solemn homily to his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, after arriving on a wheelchair to perform the historic funeral service in front of thousands of mourners gathered in St Peter’s Square.
An estimated 100,000 mournful devotees gathered for the sombre two-hour multilingual ceremony, the first requiem Mass for a dead pope presided over by a living one in 200 years.
Francis did not mention Benedict by name in his homily until the final line, in which he referred to Jesus as the ‘bridegroom’ of the church, saying: ‘Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever.’
The faithful started to pour in at 3am GMT, five and a half hours before the service for the German theologian who made history by retiring.
As 12 pallbearers carried in the coffin to the sound of applause and tolling bolls, the faithful read the rosary in Latin and hymns were sung.
The body of the Pope Emeritus was taken from the basilica and rested before the altar in the piazza as red-robed cardinals looked on, while Benedict’s longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, bent down and kissed a book of the Gospels that was left open on the coffin.
The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah was in Spanish while the second from the Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians was in English.
Pope Francis, standing with a crutch, led ex-pope Benedict XVI’s funeral mass Thursday, as a choir in St Peter’s Square sang prayers for the first pontiff to have resigned since the Middle Ages
Pope Francis in his papal regalia looks at the cypress wood coffin of his predecessor at the start of the historic funeral
Tens of thousands of members of public also attended, many of them queuing before dawn to pay their respects to Benedict, who died last Saturday aged 95
A general view shows the coffin of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the start of his funeral mass at St. Peter’s square
Pope Francis has arrived on a wheelchair to perform the funeral service for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in front of thousands of mourners gathered in St Peter’s Square
On either side of the coffin were seated red-clad cardinals and dignitaries from around the world
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the start of his funeral mass
Pope Francis arrived by wheelchair to perform the historic funeral service today in a rare ceremony presided over by a living pope
Archbishop Georg Ganswein pays his respect next to the coffin of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the start of his funeral mass
Francis prayed in front of Benedict’s plain, cypress wood coffin, which lay at the head of the Vatican square packed with foreign dignitaries, cardinals, bishops, priests and believers from around the world
The cypress coffin of Pope Benedict XVI has been displayed in front of thousands of mourners who have been pouring into St Peter’s Square
Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (L) and Italian President Sergio Mattarella attend the funeral mass
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was sitting on one side of the coffin alongside other world leaders
Spanish Queen Sofia is pictured arriving ahead of today’s ceremony, with royals and politicians in attendance
Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde (wearing a black veil), Spain’s former queen Sofia, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and Poland’s President Andrzej Duda attend the funeral
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was among the dignitaries present for the funeral in Vatican City
The coffin of former Pope Benedict is carried in front of a sea of cardinals to be displayed to the throngs gathered at St Peter’s Square
Cardinals dressed in their traditional robes start to take their seats ahead of the ceremony today which will be attended by thousands
After the end of his lying-in-state on Wednesday evening, Benedict’s body was placed in a cypress coffin which was closed privately in the presence of a few close aides, such as his long-time secretary
What is the funeral’s Order of Service?
At 8.45am (7.45 GMT), ushers known as papal gentlemen carried the coffin in procession out of the basilica and placed it on the steps facing St. Peter’s Square. The faithful will pray the rosary for about 45 minutes.
The funeral Mass presided over by Pope Francis begins at 9.30am (8.30 GMT). At first, the pope will sit before the coffin facing the crowd. The Sistine Chapel choir will start its singing with the introductory rites.
The pope will then move to a chair to the side of the altar and preside from there, sitting most of the time because of knee aliment that impedes him from standing for too long. The celebrant standing at the altar will be Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals.
Francis will deliver the homily at the Mass, which will be con-celebrated by 120 cardinals, 400 bishops and nearly 4,000 priests.
At the end of the Mass, Francis will recite ‘The Final Commendation and Farewell’ asking God to ‘console the Church’.
The liturgy for the funeral Mass is based mostly on that for a pope who dies while reigning, with some minor modifications, particularly in a few prayers and readings.
One prayer will include petitions to God for both Benedict and Francis.
Near the end of the Mass, Francis will sprinkle holy water on the coffin and incense it.
He will say in Latin: ‘Gracious Father, we commend to your mercy Pope Emeritus Benedict, whom you made successor of Peter and shepherd of the Church, a fearless preacher of your word and a faithful minister of the divine mysteries.’
The choir will then sing in Latin: ‘May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come and welcome you and take you into the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.’
The pall bearers will then carry the cypress coffin back into the basilica for a private service in which it will be sealed and wrapped in ribbons.
It will then be placed into a zinc coffin, which will be soldered shut. Both will then go into a larger, wooden coffin.
Benedict will then be buried according to his wishes in the same spot in the crypts under St. Peter’s Basilica where Pope John Paul II was originally interred in 2005 before his body was moved up to a chapel in the basilica in 2011.
As the Pope’s coffin was carried out of the Basilica there was a round of applause which continued until the bearer party gently placed the casket on a raised platform in front of the altar.
The Rosary prayer was then recited by the huge crowd as mourners continued to gather in St Peter’s Square and the main Via della Conciliazione which stretches half a mile back to the River Tiber.
A huge white awning outside St Peter’s Basilica in the square covered the altar from where Pope Francis is leading the ceremony in Latin, Italian, English and Spanish.
The event is drawing heads of state and royalty despite Benedict’s requests for simplicity and Vatican efforts to keep the first funeral for an emeritus pope in modern times low-key.
To the left sat cardinals and archbishops in bright red robes, the colour a striking contrast to the grey mist that hung in the sky and clung to the walls of the centuries old Basilica.
On the right VIPs and other dignitaries including Queen Sofia of Spain and King Philippe of Belgium.
As revealed by MailOnline, no UK royals were at the funeral but Education Secretary Gillian Keegan was sent as the country’s representative.
Only Italy and Germany were invited to send official delegations, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed their participation.
But other heads of state and government decided to take the Vatican up on its offer and come in their ‘private capacity’.
It is a far cry from the last papal funeral in 2005, when dozens of kings, presidents and prime ministers joined more than a million people who flooded the streets around the Vatican to pay their respects to Benedict’s charismatic predecessor, John Paul II.
The former Pope’s body – which had been lying in state for three days and had been seen by more than 200,000 people was brought outside just before 9am and placed in front of the Basilica.
Among those present were Germans in traditional Bavarian outfits carrying flags and standards of the area of Germany where Benedict was born.
Air space around the tiny Holy See has been closed off for the day and Italy has ordered that flags around the country be flown at half staff.
The funeral rite calls for Benedict’s coffin to be carried out from the basilica and placed before the altar as the faithful recite the rosary.
The ritual itself is modelled on the code used for dead popes but with some modifications given Benedict was not a reigning pope when he died.
The three-page account of his life and papacy, written in Latin, says he ‘fought with firmness’ against sexual abuse by clergy in the Church.
After the Mass, Benedict’s cypress coffin is to be placed inside a zinc one, then an outer oak casket before being entombed in the crypt in the grottos underneath the basilica that once held the tomb of St John Paul II before it was moved upstairs into the main basilica.
In his coffin is a written account of his historic papacy known as a rogito, the coins minted during his pontificate and his pallium stoles, the religious garment worn over the pope’s robes.
Clergy members in white robes gather in the centuries-old square to witness a rare funeral for a pope presided over by a living one
A woman holds a cross as she waits the funeral mass for late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in St. Peter’s Square
The German Pope had been lying in state at St Peter’s Basilica where thousands came to view the former leader of the Catholic Church
Police estimated some 100,000 would attend, higher than an original estimate of 60,000, Italian media reported, citing police security plans
Faithful in Bavarian attire walk at St. Peter’s Square on the day of the funeral of former Pope Benedict at the Vatican
A nun reads a copy of L’Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of Vatican City State, which today pays tribute to Benedict
Some began arriving in the Vatican area as early as 4am, five and half hours before the funeral presided over by his successor, Pope Francis, was due to begin in St. Peter’s Square
Among those were Germans in traditional Bavarian outfits carrying flags and standards of the area of Germany where Benedict was born
Two key prayers, from the diocese of Rome and the Eastern rite churches, that were recited during John Paul’s funeral, for example, will be omitted because Benedict wasn’t pope when he died and because both branches of the Catholic Church still have a reigning pope as their leader: Francis.
The readings also differ from those chosen for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, focusing on ‘the sure hope and the promise’ of eternal life in heaven.
Some 200,000 paid tribute to Benedict during three days of public viewing in St Peter’s Basilica, with one of the last ones Friar Rosario Vitale, who spent an hour praying by his body.
He said Benedict had given him a special dispensation to begin the process of becoming a priest, which was required because of a physical disability.
‘So today I came here to pray on his tomb, on his body and to say ‘thank you’ for my future priesthood, for my ministry,’ he said. ‘I owe him a lot and this for me was really a gift to be able to pray for an hour on his bier.’
The former Joseph Ratzinger, who died on December 31 at age 95, is considered one of the 20th century’s greatest theologians and spent his lifetime upholding church doctrine.
But he will go down in history for a singular, revolutionary act that changed the future of the papacy: He retired, the first pope in six centuries to do so.
Francis has praised Benedict’s courage in stepping aside when he believed he no longer had the strength to lead the church, saying it ‘opened the door’ to other popes doing the same.
Francis, for his part, recently said he has already left written instructions outlining the conditions in which he too would resign if he were to become incapacitated.
Benedict never intended his retirement to last as long as it did – at nearly 10 years it was longer than his eight-year pontificate.
And the unprecedented situation of a retired pope living alongside a reigning one prompted calls for protocols to guide future popes emeritus to prevent any confusion about who is really in charge.
During St John Paul II’s quarter-century as pope, the former Joseph Ratzinger spearheaded a crackdown on dissent as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, taking action against the left-leaning liberation theology that spread in Latin America in the 1970s and against dissenting theologians and nuns who did not toe the Vatican’s hard line on matters like sexual morals.
Thousands of people began arriving in the dark of the night on Thursday to attend the funeral of former Pope Benedict, a hero to Roman Catholic conservatives who shocked the world by resigning nearly a decade ago
Benedict died at 95 last Saturday in a monastery within the Vatican gardens where he moved after becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to stand down, opening the way for the election of Pope Francis, who has proved a more reformist, hands-on leader
Over the past three days almost 200,000 people have filed past Benedict’s body dressed in a mitre and red vestments, his hands wrapped in a rosary, which was placed on a bier in St. Peter’s Basilica without any papal regalia
A faithful carries the flag of Germany at St. Peter’s Square on the day of the funeral of former Pope Benedict at the Vatican
Benedict died at 95 on Dec. 31 in the monastery on the Vatican grounds where he had spent nearly all of his decade in retirement
A general view of Saint Peter’s Square taken from the terrace of Saint Peter’s Basilica prior to the funeral ceremony
Thousands of devotees are expected at the ceremony at the Catholic headquarters including nuns and clergy from all over the world
Even though he largely avoided public appearances in subsequent years, 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
His legacy was marred by the clergy sexual abuse scandal, even though he recognised earlier than most the ‘filth’ of priests who raped 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 848 priests being defrocked from 2004-2014, roughly his pontificate with a year on either end.
But abuse survivors still held him responsible for the crisis, for failing to sanction any bishop who moved abusers around and identifying him as embodying the clerical system that long protected the institution over victims.
‘Any celebration that marks the life of abuse enablers like Benedict must end,’ said the main US survivor group SNAP.
Cardinals arrive prior the funeral mass of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St. Peter’s square in the Vatican
Priests prepare the Eucharist in front of the iconic facade of St Peter’s Basilica as Catholics from around the world descend on the Vatican
Mourners started to pour in from the early hours, with some prepared with a duvet for the long wait until the historic ceremony
While his funeral is novel, it does have 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.
An intellectual theologian, Benedict was always likely to rule in the shadow of John Paul, who was credited with helping end the Cold War. But his time in charge was to a degree spent trying to overcome problems the Church had ignored or covered up in previous decades, including rampant sexual abuses by clerics.
Benedict himself acknowledged he was a weak administrator, and after eight years in the job he stunned the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics in 2013 by resigning, saying he was no longer strong enough to lead the Church due to his ‘advanced age’.
Even though he largely avoided public appearances in subsequent years, 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.
Over the past three days almost 200,000 people have filed past Benedict’s body dressed in a mitre and red vestments, his hands wrapped in a rosary, which was placed on a bier in St. Peter’s Basilica without any papal regalia.