Jan 5, (BBC/GNA) – Pope Francis has joined pilgrims in St Peter’s Square to preside over the funeral of his predecessor, who resigned from the papacy in 2013.
The dome of St Peter’s basilica at the Vatican was shrouded in mist as the cypress-wood coffin containing Pope Benedict XVI’s body was brought out and placed on the steps.
There was applause from the faithful who had gathered for the funeral.
Benedict was then interred in a tomb beneath the basilica.
Clergy from around the world had come – cardinals in red vestments, nuns and monks in their dark robes.
Pope Francis was brought out on to the dais in a wheelchair.
Latin chants sung by the Sistine Chapel choir echoed across the square. The mood was solemn and subdued.
Daniele, a teacher, who had met the former pontiff at a church in Rome, told me the weather matched the occasion. “The fog represents the mystery of Pope Benedict, the mystery of death and life. I feel very happy and emotional to be in St Peter’s Square.”
The pope was “an important voice in the church”, Daniele said.
During the Mass, concelebrated by cardinals, bishops and priests, Pope Francis spoke of “wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon us over the years”.
“Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom,” he said referring to Jesus, “may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever.”
Some 50,000 mourners came to the funeral, according to police. Official delegations were there from Italy and from former Pope Benedict’s home country of Germany. Other leaders, including the king and queen of Belgium attended in a private capacity.
Benedict’s death brings to an end the era of a pope and a former pope living side by side in the Vatican – an unprecedented situation brought about by Benedict’s resignation almost a decade ago.