Former Pope Benedict XVI laid to rest in solemn burial at Vatican, Pope Francis leads mass
Tens of thousands of mourners gathered in Vatican City 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. Benedict's coffin was buried on Thursday evening. Apart from the public, his funeral was also attended by red-clad cardinals and dignitaries from around the world, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
This is the first time that the funeral proceedings of a former pontiff were led by a sitting Pope, Francis.
Pope Francis arrived at the St Peter's Basilica seated in a wheelchair. The pontiff, troubled by a bad knee, sat looking down at Benedict's coffin, news agency Reuters reported. In his homily read, Pope Francis used over a dozen biblical references and Church writings where he appeared to compare Benedict to Jesus before the casket was sealed and entombed in the basilica grotto.
Heads of state and royalty, clergy from around the world and thousands of regular people flocked to the subdued ceremony, despite Benedict’s request for simplicity and official efforts to keep the first funeral for a pope emeritus in modern times low-key.
The mourners from the public also included 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.
Benedict's eight years as Pope (from 2005-2013) were 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, criticised and accused him of seeking to protect the Church at all costs.