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REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
Pope Benedict funeral.JPG
REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
World News

Pope Francis leads Benedict's funeral as supporters seek sainthood

by Premier Journalist

Pope Benedict has been laid to rest, with his funeral led by a successor for the first time in more than 200 years.

Pope Francis led the funeral of the former pope, tenderly touching the coffin as he stood supported on a cane before tens of thousands of mourners, with some calling for the late pontiff to be made a saint.

Brenden Thompson, CEO of Catholic Voices, told Premier that the former pope would be remembered as a contemporary of our late Queen, and one of the few who related to and experienced that life of public responsibility, service and devotion until their dying days.

He said: “It's quite fascinating, particularly in this country, in a way, maybe not in others, we've been thinking about the Queen. And much of the analysis when the Queen died was of her dutiful, faithful Christian service throughout her long life. And, you know, they were born one year apart, they were contemporaries, and met when Pope Benedict visited the UK in 2010, and on other occasions, and so although their life had many different circumstances and challenges, I think that's another way he'll be remembered.”

The Catholic commentator also talked about Pope Benedict’s legacy as a “deeply believing Christian”, an intellectual, and of course the first pope to resign in six centuries instead of reigning for life.

At the end of the funeral in St. Peter's Square, some people shouted in Italian "Santo Subito!" (Make him a saint now!). It was the same phrase used at the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005, although by many more people then.

Three of the last five popes have been made saints, but only around a third of all pontiffs have been canonised in the Church's 2,000-year history.

While many leading figures have praised Pope Benedict since his death, criticism has also been aired, including by victims of clergy sexual abuse, who have accused him of seeking to protect the Church at all costs.

Pope Francis, who sat for most of the service because of a knee ailment, rose at the end as Pope Benedict's coffin was being carried away for a private burial inside St. Peter's Basilica. Bowing his head in silent prayer, Pope Francis briefly touched the casket.

At 86, the leader of Catholics worldwide, who has been using a wheelchair but has shown no signs of slowing down, is a year older now than Pope Benedict was when he retired.

Pope Francis himself has made clear that he would not hesitate to step down some day if his mental or physical health prevented him from carrying out his duties, but Vatican officials always doubted he could do this while Pope Benedict was still alive.

Pope Benedict's death on Saturday brought to an end a decade of the former and present pope living side-by-side in the Vatican.

Thompson also spoke of how extraordinary it had been to have two popes alive at the same time, and wondered how that must have been for Pope Francis.

“Who else knows what it's like to be a pope except another pope?” he said. “Pope Francis described him as a grandfatherly figure kind of down the road. So it's really strange and unique in terms of a pope celebrating a pope, and other pope's funeral. But I think it's really beautiful.”­­

An account of Pope Benedict's papacy, along with other items, including Vatican coins minted during his reign, was tucked into his coffin. The account, written in Latin, says Pope Benedict "fought with firmness" against sexual abuse by clergy in the Church.

After the service, the coffin was wrapped in red ribbons in the form of a cross. Workers later put it in a zinc casket and soldered that shut, Vatican pictures showed. Both were then put into a wooden casket, which was lowered into a crypt.

People from all over the world, many from Benedict's native Germany, had arrived in the early hours to say farewell. Italian police said about 50,000 people were in the square, including a few heads of state and some European royals.

"It is a sad but meaningful day. I wanted to be here so much that I can feel it in my heart," said an Italian woman who gave only her first name, Marianna.

Dorotea Dadaeki, a Rwandan woman living in Rome, said: "I told myself that I had to come and attend holy Mass to accompany him in prayer."

Xavier Mora, 24, a Spaniard preparing for the priesthood, said he had studied Pope Benedict's theology and had "great affection and esteem for him".

About 200,000 people filed past the body while it was lying-in-state for three days until Wednesday evening.

The last time a reigning pope had presided over the funeral of a predecessor was in 1802, when Pius VII led the service for Pius VI, whose body returned to the Vatican after he died in 1799 in exile.

 

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