On Thursday, a swarm of mourners went to St. Peter’s Square to pay their respects to the late Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis led the funeral, which is quite a remarkable event considering that he is the first pope to do so for a predecessor. It has also been centuries since we have seen a pontiff resign instead of becoming the religious head until their lifespan. Pope Emeritus Benedict peacefully died in a Vatican City monastery on December 31, 2022.
According to Father James Martin, the former pope has his request before his passing, stating that Pope Benedict prefers a simple occasion for his funeral. However, with the size of St. Peter’s Square, it’s almost impossible to grant his request. Plus, there’s also the fact that plenty of people love the former pope, and it is expected for them to visit and pay their respects one last time.
He also added that for a former pope, they would want to have something going on, or at least a ceremony, but of course, it has been pulled off all according to the wishes of the former pontiff.
Matteo Bruni, a Vatican spokesperson, said they had recorded at least 50,000 people attending the funeral in St. Peter’s Square. Most have chanted and expressed their intent to have the former pope be a saint.
In comparison, the attendance is pretty low, considering how many people attended Pope John Paul II’s funeral, which has an estimated more than 1 million people. A breakdown of this figure would entail that 500,000 people participated in the actual funeral in St. Peter’s Square, while 600,000 more took part through video screens either inside or outside Rome.
It has been noted that the former pontiff, John Paul II’s funeral, is considered the most important meeting of global leaders, excluding events and meetings by the United Nations. Attendance includes prime ministers and presidents totaling 70; nine monarchs also attended and paid their respects.
Global leaders and religious delegates populated the square, which was reported to hold more than 50,000 attendees. This includes the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Fiala. Much of the ceremony can be easily attributed to a regular papal event. Still, there have been some changes and specific modifications to ensure that it doesn’t complicate and confuse people since Benedict XVI isn’t the reigning pope. There are also some noticeable changes, including the language preference and the way he was called pope emeritus.
At 4 AM ET, Pope Francis extended his homily after finishing his mass while the attendees also made sure to be part of the Communion.
Former pontiff John Paul II was declared a saint in 2013, which prompted Vatican City to transfer his remains to St. Peter’s Basilica. His tomb would then be given to Benedict XVI, located in the Vatican crypt.
While his coffin is being transported to the basilica, most of the attendees and his supporters are heard shouting and expressing their opinions, mostly about his canonization and a call for making him an immediate saint.
Pope Francis’s homily is filled with emotions and gratitude towards the former pontiff, which he admired the most.
More dignitaries are of high standing and merit; for instance, Queen Sofia of Spain attended the funeral to pay their respects to the former pope. Joe Donelly, the US ambassador of Vatican City, is also set to participate in the funeral.
So far, 200,000 attendees have gone to see the former pope while he is still in St. Peter’s Basilica, which is open for public viewing.
In response to his passing and as a form of respect and recognition for his contributions as a former pope, Italian and European flags are ordered to be half-mast, which will apply to all Italian public buildings on the day of his funeral ceremony.