Pope Francis greeted Sunday morning the “beloved” Benedict XVI, his predecessor who died on Saturday at the age of 95 and whose funeral he will celebrate on Thursday.
“Today we entrust the beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to the Most Holy Mother (the Virgin Mary) to accompany him from this world to God,” he said during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Argentine sovereign pontiff must also speak at midday for the weekly Angelus prayer in front of the crowd gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.
Brilliant theologian and fervent guardian of dogma, Benedict XVI, who announced that he would give up his charge in 2013 because of his declining strength, died on Saturday at the age of 95 in the monastery where he had retired, in the heart of the Vatican gardens.
A few hours after the announcement of his death, François had already paid tribute to his predecessor, greeting a “person so noble, so kind”. “We feel so much gratitude in our hearts.”
He will celebrate Thursday morning the funeral of the first German pope in modern history – who was at the head of the Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013 – an unprecedented event in the two thousand year history of the Catholic Church to which thousands of devotees should attend.
The public will be able to gather from Monday morning in front of the body of Joseph Ratzinger, which will be exhibited under the gold of Saint Peter’s Basilica before being buried in a crypt after his funeral.
– “Courage” –
From United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to French Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, tributes from leaders around the world poured in on Saturday.
“He will be remembered as a distinguished theologian, guided by his principles and his faith, and whose entire life was dedicated to his devotion to the Church,” said US President Joe Biden.
In his native village in Germany, Marktl, the flag of the town hall was lowered, as on all public buildings in Bavaria.
His death puts an end to the unusual cohabitation of two men in white: on the one hand the German Joseph Ratzinger, a brilliant theologian not very comfortable with crowds, on the other the Argentinian Jorge Bergoglio, a Jesuit endowed with an incisive word that wanted to put the poor and migrants back at the center of the Church’s mission.
After his eight years of a pontificate marked by multiple crises, Benedict XVI had been caught up in early 2022 by the drama of pedocrime in the Church. Questioned by a report in Germany on his management of sexual violence when he was Archbishop of Munich, he broke his silence to ask for “pardon” but had assured that he had never covered up a child criminal.
– HIV and Vatileaks –
With this decision, unprecedented in six centuries, the first German pope in modern history paved the way for his successors whose strength would come to decline. François, 86 years old and suffering from knee pain, himself left this possibility “open”.
Born in 1927, Joseph Ratzinger taught theology for 25 years in Germany before being appointed Archbishop of Munich.
He then became the strict guardian of the dogma of the Church for another quarter of a century in Rome at the head of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, then pope for eight years, succeeding John Paul II.
Last pope to have participated in the Second Vatican Council, he however defended a conservative line at the head of the Church, in particular on abortion, homosexuality or euthanasia.
His statements have sometimes shocked, such as on Islam or the use of condoms against HIV.
His pontificate was also marked in 2012 by the leak of confidential documents (“Vatileaks”) orchestrated by his butler. The scandal had exposed a Roman Curia (Vatican government) plagued by intrigue and devoid of financial rigour.