“Blessed, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be perfect in hearing his voice definitively and forever”. This was said by the Pope, who arrived in St. Peter’s Square in a wheelchair, in his homily for the funeral of Benedict XVI, asking to “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 shed and testified during his life”.
The celebration of Benedict XVI’s funeral was preceded by the recitation of the rosary. Ratzinger’s coffin was placed in the churchyard. An open Gospel was placed above the coffin.
It is a long and moving applause to welcome in St. Peter’s Square the arrival of Benedict XVI’s coffin carried by the chairs.
St. Peter’s Square is already full in the early hours of a foggy day. German flags flutter in the sky and the race for a seat is tight. The first block in front of the church is already full. Around several banners with the inscription “Danke Benedikt” and a river of people is still preparing to arrive to pass the controls and thus have access to the square for a last farewell to the pope emeritus.
The thousands of faithful who will attend the funeral of Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square arrived at dawn, and perhaps even earlier.
At 6.30 the queue arriving from the Porta Sant’Anna side was already very long. The area around the Vatican is all cordoned off up to the end of Via della Conciliazione and to access the gates, where there are security checkpoints, you have to make long detours. In fact, via della Conciliazione cannot be crossed even on foot. The deployment of the security forces and the vehicles of the fire brigade and the police that can be seen in the nearby squares is great. One hundred thousand people are expected at the ceremony.
Almost two hundred thousand people in three days (195 thousand) paid homage to the pope emeritus, who passed away on December 31, at the age of 95, and whose body remained exposed for 72 hours inside the Basilica symbol of Christianity. An uninterrupted wave of faithful and tourists, such as those expected for tomorrow, when Pope Francis will preside over the funeral for his last farewell to his predecessor. “He was a great teacher of catechesis”, the words of Bergoglio from the Paul VI Hall where he held the traditional Wednesday general audience. “His acute and polite thought of him-he added-of him was not self-referential, but ecclesial, because he always wanted to accompany us to the encounter with Jesus”.
Among the faithful in line for the funeral of Benedict XVI
With the preparations now completed in the churchyard of the Basilica, the expectation is therefore growing for the unprecedented funeral rite for a pope emeritus. The only official delegations planned are the Italian and German ones, led by Sergio Mattarella and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, but there are many political leaders from all over the world who will take part in the ceremony, from the royals of Belgium and Spain to the heads of state of Poland and Hungary. There will also be Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and the presidents of the Chamber and Senate, Lorenzo Fontana and Ignazio La Russa. There will also be substantial participation of religious leaders, from the metropolitan of the Russian Church Antonij of Volokolamsk, to the vice president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community, imam Yahya Pallavicini, to a delegation of Roman Jews. 3,700 priests are also expected, in addition to bishops and cardinals. Over 1,000 journalists from 30 countries will follow the event. Particular attention will be paid to the liturgy which, as reported by the press office of the Holy See, will roughly follow that envisaged for a Pope, but with expedients and filings in the parts dedicated to the ‘reigning pope’.
Benedict XVI’s coffin will leave St. Peter’s Basilica at 8.50 to allow the faithful to recite the Rosary in the following minutes. Mass will begin at 9.30 and Bergoglio himself will preside over it who, however, will in all likelihood leave the actual celebration to the dean of the college of cardinals, Giovanni Battista Re. At the end of the rite, the body will leave the square to reach the Vatican grottoes where it will be buried during a private ceremony away from the cameras. In his coffin she will have the coins and medals minted during his pontificate, the pallias he wore during his ecclesial career and the deed, that is, a summary of his history as pope.
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