He wore a white alb and a red chasuble, the color of the buried popes. The body of Benedict XVI was framed by two Swiss guards. placed in front of the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica with its huge canopy designed by Bernini. The Pope Emeritus died two days ago, and this Monday, January 2, it’s time for the final farewell. That returned from the faithful to his remains, which were exposed for three days. A Easter candle was lit. A rosary with small ruby-colored beads was placed between their joined hands.
Among the visitors who have been marching in silence since 9 am, the elders have already noted that in 2005 Joseph Ratzinger was not wearing the pallium, that woolen shawl clearly visible on the remains of John Paul II. A sign that this is not the case is the incumbent Pope, who is buried, but who for almost ten years had given himself the name “Pope Emeritus” and retired to a small monastery in the heart of the Vatican Gardens.
Six rows of chairs and kneelers are arranged in front of the body, which rests on a beige catafalque. Cardinals, monsignors in cassocks and purple sashes, members of the Curia and Vatican employees follow one another there alongside political figures or ambassadors. Sergio Mattarella, the Italian President, and Giorgia Meloni, President of the Council of Ministers, were among the first to take their seats on Monday morning.
Bishop Georg Gänswein, the permanent private secretary, is there
As for the simple pilgrims, they pass gently after crossing the central nave of the basilica with slow steps. Ordinary believers pausing for a moment to pray after the Sign of the Cross with their eyes closed. Here it is a priest in cassock staring at the remains of the Pope Emeritus. There a young woman with the Spanish flag on her shoulders waits her turn by slowly advancing into the nave. Many pulled out their cellphones to take a picture and arrived in front of the body of whoever they paid their last respects to. Some kneel down, wipe away a tear.
Bishop Georg Gänswein, lifelong private secretary, is also there and shakes hands with visitors like a son who accepts his condolences after the loss of his father. Off to one side, a small group of nuns prayed the rosary before being driven away with a loud “Avanti” by members of the basilica’s security service. These guards know full well: As the first to enter at 9.09am this morning – Indian priests who had arrived at 5.30am – the nave will not be empty until Wednesday evening, except at night when the basilica closes doors. 40,000 people had already come to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Monday morning to pay their last respects to the German Pope.
tourists and followers
Outside, in St. Peter’s Square, under an overcast sky, several thousand people are waiting in a long, anarchic line, from which a slight and constant tumult in all languages rises. Despite the mild weather, some are wearing scarves and hats. But they know: the wait will be long. Five hours, maybe more. Not all are faithful, like these Japanese tourists with their 6-month-old baby who arrived in Rome the day before. Eager to visit the Vatican, they queued without immediately understanding why so many people were there today. Or Cédric and Camille, this young couple of Franco-Italian students who became Benedict XVI. weren’t overly keen but decided to wait to “see the Vatican and have a historic day.”
Wrapped in her cloak and the sky blue veil on her head, there is also Sister Suzanne Bahati, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The 45-year-old nun, a member of the Society of the Divine Redeemer congregation, remembers the election of Benedict XVI very well. “I was in Kolwezi, a town in the south of the country. I was then a young postulant and the superior was not there. We were 15 sisters in front of the TV when we met Benedict XVI. saw appear at the window. I knew him from his writings. Today, the doctoral student of canon law describes the German pope as a “guide for the church”.
“We’re a bit like family around him”
A little further down the line, it is Pablo, a 45-year-old historian who has come with his 8-year-old son, who evokes the memory of the late pope. “I was influenced by several of his books even before he was elected Pope,” recalls the Spaniard from Madrid. He picked up his plane tickets shortly after hearing from Pope Francis on Wednesday, December 28, that Pope Benedict was “seriously ill.” “We’re a bit like a family around him,” he says today. I said goodbye to him as I would to my grandfather, with whom I would also come to pray. »
This morning, the faithful waiting to enter the basilica meet those who are leaving, having gathered. Like Father Anoop Varghese, a 40-year-old Syro-Malankara priest. This Indian is inexhaustible to Benedict XVI. and his legacy. Before he left for the basilica, he also read the spiritual testament of the Pope Emeritus: “This sums up the life of Benedict XVI. good together. All his life he loved God and others. » Then he stops and looks at the square in front of him: « If you were discreet, humble and ultimately not very charismatic, look at how many people are here today to pay homage to him. He continues: “I grew up with him and that was the last time I could say goodbye to him. I could say that I had the chance to live in his time. »
The tribute to the “anonymous”, which began on Monday morning, followed that of the relatives the day before at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, where the pope emeritus died. In the small chapel of the house with ocher walls dozens of people, relatives and employees, had gathered discreetly. Before the transfer of the body of Benedict XVI. to the Basilica on Monday, January 2, early in the morning, during a private ceremony presided over by Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, at which the Litany of the Saints was performed. The same that the cardinals had intoned when entering the conclave – as in 2005, when Joseph Ratzinger to Benedict XVI. had been chosen.
Official delegations present at the funeral
Italy and Germany are the only two countries to officially celebrate the funeral of Benedict XVI. under the presidency of Pope Francis on Thursday 5 January at 9:30 a.m. Leaders of other states will be welcomed “in a private capacity,” the Vatican said. This is one of the differences to the funeral of an incumbent Pope.
Nevertheless, several heads of state and government have already announced their trip to Rome, including Philippe, King of the Belgians, and Polish President Andrzej Duda. At 4 p.m. on Monday, January 2nd, the composition of the French delegation had not yet been decided.
Thanksgiving services across France
In most French dioceses, Catholics are invited to pay tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI this week. to commemorate who died on Saturday at the age of 95.
In Versailles, Monsignor Luc Crepy led a funeral mass for this “servant of truth and unity” on Monday evening in the Saint-Louis Cathedral. In Paris, Msgr. Laurent Ulrich will celebrate Mass on Wednesday 4 January at 6.30pm in the Saint-Sulpice church.
The list is not exhaustive but shows a general movement in the French dioceses. In Lyon, for example, there will be a mass on Tuesday 3 January at 7 p.m. in the Saint-Jean cathedral; in Strasbourg, Thursday 5 January, 6.30 p.m.; in Bordeaux, Wednesday 4 January at 6.30 p.m.; in Grenoble, Thursday 5 January, 7 p.m