Pope Francis conducts unique funeral for ex-Pope Benedict XVI

For the first time in modern history, a sitting pope will preside over his predecessor’s funeral next week, with Pope Francis prescribing a “simple” ceremony for Benedict XVI. leads, who died on Saturday.

Benedict, the first pope to resign since the Middle Ages, had renounced the papal throne – but lived in the Vatican and still wore white.

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The 95-year-old will be buried “ceremoniously but simply” on Thursday, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists at a briefing after his death.

The sudden deterioration in the ex-Pope’s health earlier this week had raised questions about what would happen next.

The death of a Roman Catholic pope usually sets in motion time-honoured traditions, but would one who had renounced the papacy receive papal treatment?

Unlike the deaths of previous popes, there is no need to call a conclave to elect a new pope, as Francis – who was elected to succeed Benedict in 2013 – remains largely in office.

According to rules established in 1996, a pope must be buried between four and six days after his death.

How and when he is buried is usually decided by cardinals from all over the world, who also organize the Novemdiales, the Vatican’s nine days of mourning.

They decide because the death of a pope traditionally creates a power vacuum at the top of the church.

In this case, however, there is no such vacuum as Francis is in charge.

Extreme unction

The ex-Pope’s funeral will take place on Thursday at 9:30 am (0830 GMT) in St. Peter’s Square, the vast square in front of the basilica.

“As the Pope Emeritus wished, the funeral will be easy,” Bruni told reporters.

Pope Francis drew the world’s attention to Benedict’s frailty on Wednesday when he called on the world’s Catholics to pray for him.

He later visited him at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens, which became Benedict’s home when he retired.

Bruni said the ex-Pope received the “anointing of the sick,” or “last rites,” as it’s often called, that same day, a Catholic tradition in which a person’s soul is cleansed of sins in preparation for the afterlife .

This happened at the end of a Mass at his home in the presence of the Memores Domini, four nun-like lay women who lived with him.

The body of the German Pope, whose birth name was Joseph Ratzinger, will remain in the monastery until early Monday morning.

It is then taken to St. Peter’s Basilica to be laid out, where the faithful can pay their respects for three days.

Also in 2005, the body of John Paul II, the last deceased pope, was laid out before a funeral mass in St. Peter’s Square, presided over by Ratzinger, then a senior cardinal.

An estimated one million people attended, in addition to heads of state from around the world.

“Fisherman’s Ring”

The Vatican said official delegations from Italy and the ex-Pope’s home country of Germany would attend the funeral.

After that, “the coffin of the Pope Emeritus will be taken to St. Peter’s Basilica and then to the Vatican Grottoes for burial,” the Vatican said.

According to media reports, in 2020 Benedict had chosen to be buried in the former tomb of John Paul II in the crypt of St. Peter.

The body of the beloved Polish Pope was transferred to the upper part of the basilica at his beatification in 2011. In 2014 he was canonized.

Traditionally, when a pope dies, his “fishing ring” – a signet ring specially cast for each new pope, which was once used to seal documents – is also destroyed.

When Benedict left office, the front of his ring was etched with an “X” to render it unusable.

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