120 cardinals, 400 bishops, 4000 priests and 1 pope to bury one more

Only Italy and Germany were invited to send official delegations, but other leaders accepted the Vatican’s offer and came in their “private capacity”. They included several other heads of state, at least four prime ministers and two delegations of royal officials.

Matteo Colonna, a 20-year-old seminarian from Teramo, Italy, said he attended in part because of the historical nature of the funeral – but it also had personal significance for him.


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

Early Thursday, the Vatican released the official life story of Benedict, a short document in Latin that was placed in a metal cylinder in his coffin before it was sealed, along with the coins and medallions minted during his papacy and his pallium stole.

The document paid close attention to Benedict’s historic resignation, calling him “pope emeritus,” citing verbatim the Latin words he uttered on February 11, 2013, when announcing his resignation.

The document, known as the “rogito” or charter, also cited his theological and papal legacy, including his commitment to Anglicans and Jews and his efforts to combat clergyman sexual abuse “which continually leads the church to conversion, prayer, repentance and calls for purification”.

The burial ritual itself is modeled after the code used for dead popes, but with some modifications given, Benedict was not an acting pope when he died.

After Mass, Benedict’s cypress coffin was to be placed in a zinc coffin, then in an outer oak coffin before being buried in the crypt in the Grottoes beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, which once held the tomb of St John Paul II before it was moved up.

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

Some 200,000 paid tribute to Benedict during the three-day public visit to the basilica, with one of the last, Brother Rosario Vitale, praying over his body for an hour. He said Benedict gave him special permission to begin becoming a priest, which was required because of a physical disability.

Pope Benedict XVI at his general audience in St. Peter's Square in 2010.

Pope Benedict XVI at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square in 2010.Credit:Getty

“That’s why I came here today to pray over his grave and body and say ‘thank you’ for my future priesthood and ministry,” he said.

Benedict never intended his retirement to be this long — at nearly 10 years, it was longer than his eight-year pontificate. And the unprecedented situation of a retired pope living next door to an incumbent pope led to calls for protocols to guide future popes emeritus to avoid confusion over who is really in charge.

During the quarter-century of John Paul II as Pope, Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led a crackdown on dissent, targeting the left-leaning liberation theology that was spreading in Latin America in the 1970s and dissent theologians and scholars Nuns who didn’t follow the Vatican’s hard line on sexual morals.

His legacy was tarnished by the clergyman sex abuse scandal, though he recognized earlier than most the “filth” of priests who raped children and actually laid the groundwork for the Holy See to punish them.

Church members are escorted to their seats as they arrive for the funeral service for Pope Benedict.

Church members are escorted to their seats as they arrive for the funeral service for Pope Benedict.Credit:AP

As cardinal and pope, he passed sweeping church law that resulted in 848 priests being impeached from 2004 to 2014, roughly his one-year pontificate on either end. But abuse survivors still blamed him for the crisis for his failure to sanction a bishop who drove abusers around, identifying him as the embodiment of the clerical system that long protected the institution from victims.

A group representing survivors of abuse by German clergy has urged German officials attending Benedict’s funeral to demand more action from the Vatican against sex abuse. Eckiger Tisch called on German leaders to demand a “universal church law” from Francis mandating zero tolerance in dealing with abuse by clergy.

“Any celebration marking the lives of abuse workers like Benedict must end,” said major US abuse survivors group SNAP.


https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/120-cardinals-400-bishops-4000-priests-and-1-pope-to-bury-another-20230105-p5calf.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world 120 cardinals, 400 bishops, 4000 priests and 1 pope to bury one more

Callan Tansill

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