Ex-Pope Benedict's funeral begins, Pope Francis leads proceedings
Tens of thousands of mourners in Vatican City gathered for the funeral of former Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday (January 5), led by his successor Pope Francis. Benedict, who in 2013 became the first pontiff in 600 years to resign, died last Saturday (December 31, 2022) at the age of 95 due to sickness.
On Thursday, his body was laid out in a simple cypress coffin in front of St Peter's Basilica, where his remains will later be laid in the crypt, news agency AFP reported.
Apart from the public, the funeral is also being attended by red-clad cardinals and dignitaries from around the world including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
This is the first time that the funeral proceedings of a former pontiff are being led by a sitting Pope, Francis, who will deliver the homily.
The mourners also include many Germans, paying tributes to Benedict- who was Germany's first pope in 1,000 years.
"We owe him so much. We want to show that we stand behind him," Benedikt Rothweiler, a resident of Germany's Aachen, told AFP on Thursday. "We actually know too little about Benedict. He always accepted everything the way God wants it. This is a good example for us humans," Rothweiler added.
Ahead of the funeral, Benedict's coffin was brought to St. Peter's Square and placed on the altar. After the funeral ceremony is over, the coffin will be taken back inside the basilica and encased in zinc before being sealed in a second wooden casket, Reuters reported.
Benedict's eight years as Pope (from 2005-2013) was marked by crises, from in-fighting within the Vatican to the global scandal of clerical sex abuse and its cover-up. While many people have praised Benedict since he died on December 31 last year, some, including victims of clergy sexual abuse, have criticised and accused him of seeking to protect the Church at all costs.