Thousands of mourners gathered to attend the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican on Thursday (January 5). Pope Benedict died last Saturday (December 31) aged 95 after retiring from leading the Catholic Church in 2013 due to ill health.
It is the first time for hundreds of years that a Requiem Mass for a former pope has been presided over by a current pope. Pope Francis led Catholics in marking the passing of their former leader and around 50,000 pilgrims came to pay their respects.
Prior to the service, Benedict’s body had been on display in St Peter’s Basilica, dressed in robes and clutching rosary beads, allowing tens of thousands of faithful to file past. As it began, 12 pallbearers carried the coffin out of the church and rested it before an altar in front of St Peter’s Square.
Thousands of people gathered, including heads of state, royalty and clergy from around the world to watch the ceremony unfold. Current head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, 86, who arrived in a wheelchair wearing the crimson vestments typical of papal funerals, began with the introductory rites.
A prayer started the mass , and Francis closed it an hour later by blessing the casket decorated with the former pope’s coat of arms. The late pontiff’s remains will now be interred alongside other former popes, including Pope John Paul II, in the crypts beneath St. Peter’s Basilica.