Rome (Italy). On 5 January 2023, in the square of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the funeral Mass of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was celebrated, presided over by Pope Francis, concelebrated by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re on the altar, and by over 120 cardinals, plus of 400 bishops and almost four thousand priests, with the presence of civil authorities, representatives of various countries, and ecumenical delegations.

The simplicity and profound recollection of the approximately 50,000 faithful who arrived at the first light of dawn, from all over Italy and from various countries, for the last tribute to the Pope Emeritus who died on 31 DEcember 2022, marked the Ceremony, preceded by the arrival in the churchyard of the unadorned cypress coffin, upon which the personal secretary of Benedict XVI, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, kneeling down, placed the open Gospel.

After the prayer of the Rosary, with which the assembly entrusted the soul of Peter’s beloved successor to the heavenly Mother, Pope Francis arrived at the platform for the beginning of the Celebration, a unique historical moment in which a Pontiff presided over the funeral of his predecessor.

“Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit” are the words he used to introduce the homily, taken from the Gospel of Luke (Lk 23: 39-46), which narrates the last moments of the life of Jesus and His surrender into the hands of the Father. “Grateful dedication of service to the Lord and to His people that arises from having accepted a totally gratuitous gift” is that of the Shepherd, who remains in the hollow of the Father’s hands and extends his hands to feed the people. A “prayerful dedication” and silent, even in contradictions, when “like the Master, he carries on his shoulders the weariness of intercession and the burden of the anointing for his people”.

It is in this entrustment, in this “intercessory encounter” that the Lord generates meekness “able to understand, welcome, hope, and wager”, “invisible and elusive” fruitfulness, “prayerful and adoring” trust, the fruitful witness of who, like Mary, “remain in many ways at the foot of the cross”.

The Holy Father continues, “We too, firmly bound to the last words of the Lord and to the testimony that marked His life, desire as an ecclesial community, to follow in His footsteps and entrust our brother to the hands of the Father. May these hands of mercy find his lamp lit with the oil of the Gospel, which he spread and testified to during his life”.

And he concludes his homily wishing his predecessor, “Blessed, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be perfect in hearing His voice definitively and forever!”

At the end of the celebration, after Pope Francis gave the last commending and farewell (commendatio et valedictio), the coffin was carried towards the Basilica for burial in the Vatican Grottoes, accompanied by the applause of the faithful, who with their eyes affectionately followed the procession until they saw it disappear.

Some General Councilors of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, present at the event, expressed the emotions they experienced:

“An experience of Church, in an atmosphere of depth and prayer. I was struck by the cry that arose in the final silence: Saint immediately. The moment in which the coffin was carried away was very emotional”.

“Profound experience of the universal Church. Before the celebration, it was possible to hear people talking about their experience with Pope Benedict: Poles, Germans, Italians…”.

“Very touching to see some young people cry. This Pope was much loved”.

“One could sense that people hadn’t come by chance, but to express gratitude for the legacy he left us and for the person he was”.

“There was the sense of a united Church. It is the very strong effect of this Pope who in silence and humility continued behind the scenes to give his contribution to the Church”.

“I felt a profound atmosphere of silence and prayer. His testimony of humility until the end led us to give thanks for the gift of his life”.

“Participating in the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI was an experience of faith, of simple and profound prayer, together with a people of God always journeying”.

“Gratitude to the Lord who guides the history of the Church and who continues to give us pastors like Benedict XVI, strong in faith, passionate about Jesus, and humble servants of humanity”.

“I felt like I was in a huge family that wants to express deep respect and esteem for this person who is as great as he is humble and reserved. Seeing such a multicultural and multigenerational event gave me so much joy and hope. Thank you, Pope Benedict”.

“Attending the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI made me understand the greatness of this humble servant of God who gave himself totally to the Church. Despite the criticisms for renouncing the pontificate, I think that today the Church has become aware of his faith, humility, and inner freedom. The prayerful and serene presence of thousands of people in the early hours of the day in the bitter cold was silent testimony and great admiration for his credible life”.


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