Thousands gathered for the funeral of former Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
He will be buried in a crypt beneath St. Peter’s Basilica after three days of lying in state in an open casket for mourners to pay their respects. Benedict died on Saturday at the age of 95.
Pope Francis gave the homily at the funeral, a rare instance where a living pontiff had presided over the burial of his predecessor. In 2013 Pope Benedict became the first pontiff to resign in almost 600 years, rather than hold the position for life, citing old age.
Pope Francis paid tribute to Benedict in front of an estimated 50,000 guests, dignitaries, and religious leaders. The sitting pope only referred to the former pope by name once.
“Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!” he said.
Crowds began to gather at St. Peter’s Square in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Members of the clergy stood in front of the altar at St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinals joined shortly after.
Benedict’s body was placed in a closed wooden cypress coffin and laid on a dais in front of the altar where the Mass took place.
According to the Vatican, the coffin will include a “rogito” — a text summarizing the late pope’s pontificate and earlier life. It will be placed in a protective case.
Pope Francis presided over the funeral ceremonies.
Speaking to the crowd, Francis delivered his homily. “Like the women at the tomb, we too have come with the fragrance of gratitude and the balm of hope, in order to show him once more the love that is undying.
“We want to do this with the same wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon us over the years. Together, we want to say: ‘Father, into your hands we commend his spirit.’
Among those in attendance were the nationalist Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni, the former Spanish queen Sofia, and King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.
The funeral marks the end of 10 years where two popes have coexisted at the Vatican — one, a conservative emeritus, another, a liberal in power. And it is rare for a sitting pope to bury his predecessor: the last time this happened was in 1802.
Multiple reports noted modifications to the traditional funeral proceedings, which usually take place when a reigning pope passes. The bells at St. Peter’s Basilica, for instance, did not toll for the death of the pope.
According to the Vatican’s website, a nine-day mourning period that usually takes place after the burial of a pope will not be observed.
In accordance with his wishes, the late pope was laid to rest in a floor-level tomb previously occupied by his immediate predecessor, John Paul II.
The Washington Post’s Rome bureau chief noted that Benedict’s funeral was much simpler than anticipated — lasting half the time of his predecessor.