Funeral of Benedict XVI: it was love that prevailed
It is ‘love’ the word that undoubtedly emerges strongly from this day, dedicated to the funeral of Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI
Funeral of Benedict XVI, Pope Francis celebrates in a packed St Peter’s Square
Certainly the love of the Lord’s flock for what will be remembered as a shepherd of great value, both human and spiritual.
A love perhaps not fully understood by the world of politics, religion and communication, almost incredulous in the face of what has happened in recent days.
An estimated 50,000 people came from all over the world and there were queues already before dawn to attend the funeral of the Pope Emeritus, who will rest in the tomb that was once John Paul II’s.
The ceremony ended with the burial in the Vatican Grottoes on the day that marks Benedict XVI’s farewell.
Pope Francis, a grateful friend of his predecessor, delivered a heartfelt homily that focused not so much on Benedict XVI’s intellectual gifts as on his human and spiritual ones.
“Blessed, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be perfect in hearing his voice definitively and forever!” said Pope Francis in the conclusion of his homily.
BERGOGLIO’S FINAL FAREWELL TO RATZINGER: POPE FRANCIS’ EMBRACE IN CHRIST TO BENEDICT XVI
Once the funeral liturgy of Benedict XVI was over, the coffin of the Pope Emeritus was carried on his shoulders inside St. Peter’s Basilica as the bells tolled and the faithful applauded.
Before his return to the church, Pope Francis personally wished to pay his last respects to Ratzinger: the Pontiff rose from the chair from which he had celebrated the funeral mass and paid his respects to the coffin with a hand resting on the coffin, his head bowed and a sign of the cross. He then left the churchyard in his wheelchair.
As soon as Pope Francis returned to the Basilica, at 10.54 a.m., preceded by the cortege accompanying the coffin of the Pope Emeritus, at the conclusion of the solemn funeral, the crowd of lay and religious began to leave St. Peter’s Square under the direction of the Vatican gendarmes and the Swiss Guards.
POPE FRANCIS’ HOMILY: “BLESSED, MAY YOUR JOY BE PERFECT”
“Blessed, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be perfect in hearing his voice definitively and forever!” Thus ended the funeral homily for the Supreme Pontiff Emeritus Benedict XVI.
It was delivered by Pope Francis, seated on a chair in the centre of the parvis in St Peter’s Square.
“‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’. They are the last words that the Lord pronounced on the cross,’ Francis began, ‘his last sigh, we could say, capable of confirming what characterised his entire life: a continuous handing over into the hands of his Father. Hands of forgiveness and compassion, hands of healing and mercy, hands of anointing and blessing, which drove him to also deliver himself into the hands of his brothers”.
“The Lord, open to the stories he met along the way, allowed himself to be chiselled by the will of God,” the Pontiff went on to say, “taking on his shoulders all the consequences and difficulties of the Gospel until he saw his hands wounds for love: ‘Look at my hands,’ he said to Thomas, and he says it to each one of us. Wounded hands that go forth and never cease to offer themselves, so that we may know the love God has for us and believe in it.
‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ is the invitation and the programme of life that whispers and wants to mould the shepherd’s heart like a potter, until the same sentiments of Christ Jesus beat within it.
Grateful dedication of service to the Lord and his people, which stems from accepting a totally free gift: ‘You belong to me … you belong to them,’ stammered the Lord; ‘you stand under the protection of my hands, under the protection of my heart. Stay in the hollow of my hands and give me yours”.
In his homily, Pope Francis added: “It is God’s condescension and his closeness that is capable of placing himself in the fragile hands of his disciples to feed his people and say with him: take and eat, take and drink, this is my body that offers itself for you.
Prayerful dedication, silently moulding and refining itself amidst the crossroads and contradictions that the shepherd must face and the confident invitation to shepherd the flock.
Like the Master, he bears on his shoulders the weariness of intercession and the weariness of anointing for his people, especially where goodness must struggle and brothers see their dignity threatened.
In this intercessory encounter, the Lord is generating the meekness capable of understanding, welcoming, hoping and betting beyond the misunderstandings that this may provoke.
Invisible and elusive fruitfulness, which comes from knowing in whose hands trust is placed”.
“Prayerful and adoring trust, capable of interpreting the shepherd’s actions and adapting his heart and his decisions to God’s times,” Bergoglio continued, “Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer.
To love means: to give the sheep the true good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence.
Dedication sustained by the consolation of the Spirit, who always precedes him in the mission: in the passionate quest to communicate the beauty and joy of the Gospel, in the fruitful witness of those who, like Mary, remain in many ways at the foot of the cross, in that painful but robust peace that neither assails nor subjugates; and in the stubborn but patient hope that the Lord will fulfil his promise, as he promised our fathers and his descendants for ever” .
“We too,” added Pope Francis, “firmly attached to the last words of the Lord and to the witness that marked his life, we wish, 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 shed and bore witness to during his life.
St Gregory the Great, at the end of his Pastoral Rule, invited and exhorted a friend to offer him this spiritual companionship: ‘In the midst of the storms of my life, I am comforted by the confidence that you will keep me afloat on the table of your prayers, and that, if the weight of my faults brings me down and humbles me, you will lend me the help of your merits to lift me up.
It is the Shepherd’s awareness that he cannot carry alone what, in reality, he could never carry alone and, therefore, he knows how to abandon himself to prayer and care for the people entrusted to him’.
“It is the faithful People of God that, gathered together, accompanies and entrusts the life of one who has been its shepherd,” the Pontiff concluded in his homily.
“Like the women of the Gospel at the tomb, we are here with the fragrance of gratitude and the ointment of hope to show him, once again, the love that is not lost; we want to do so with the same anointing, wisdom, gentleness and dedication that he has been able to bestow over the years.
We want to say together: ‘Father, into your hands we deliver his spirit'”.
The body of Benedict XVI was transferred at 8.50 a.m. sharp from inside St Peter’s Basilica to the parvis.
A roar of applause from a composed and silent crowd of tens of thousands greeted the remains of the Pope Emeritus.
Accompanying the coffin was the emeritus Pope’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein. Father Georg placed the open Gospel on the coffin, knelt down and kissed it.
At Ratzinger’s express request, the burial took place in a triple coffin – the first of which is made of cypress wood – in which will be placed the medal and coins minted during the Pontificate, the pallium or pallium of the bishop and the rogito, i.e. a text briefly describing the Pontificate.
In particular, the rogito is inserted into a metal tube, as was clarified by the Holy See Press Office. Immediately afterwards, the recitation of the Holy Rosary began.
THE CROWD OF FAITHFUL
Well before 8 o’clock, the seats set up inside the Bernini colonnade were slowly sold out due to the influx of numerous pilgrims, including groups from all over Italy but especially from the rest of the world.
Among the crowd, many languages could be picked up: Spanish, Polish, English, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese and of course German, Joseph Ratzinger’s mother tongue.
In the square, 3,700 priests and more than 1,100 accredited journalists from more than 30 countries from all over the world were added to the 50,000 expected faithful.
This was confirmed to the Dire agency by sources inside the Vatican Press Office, who added: “Of course there are many Italians, Germans, but also Poles, French, English, Americans, Spaniards, and then some from Asia, Africa, South America. Several also came from other European countries’.
THE TEXT OF THE DEED FOR THE PIOUS TRANSIT OF BENEDICT XVI
“In the light of Christ risen from the dead, on 31 December in the year of our Lord 2022, at 9.34 a.m., as the year was ending and we were ready to sing the Te Deum for the many benefits granted by the Lord, the beloved Pastor Emeritus of the Church, Benedict XVI, passed from this world to the Father.
The whole Church together with the Holy Father Francis in prayer accompanied his transit’. So begins the text of the deed for the Pious Transit of Benedict XVI, whose funeral is currently underway in St Peter’s Square.
Benedict XVI was the 265th Pope. His memory remains in the heart of the Church and of all humanity.
Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, elected Pope on 19 April 2005, was born in Marktl am Inn, in the Diocese of Passau (Germany), on 16 April 1927.
His father was a gendarmerie commissioner and came from a farming family in Lower Bavaria, whose economic conditions were rather modest.
His mother was the daughter of artisans from Rimsting, on Lake Chiem, and had been a cook in several hotels before her marriage’.
“He spent his childhood and adolescence in Traunstein, a small town near the Austrian border,” the deed goes on to say, “about thirty kilometres from Salzburg, where he received his Christian, human and cultural education.
The time of his youth was not easy.
His family’s faith and upbringing prepared him for the harsh experience of the problems associated with the Nazi regime, knowing the climate of strong hostility towards the Catholic Church in Germany. In this complex situation, he discovered the beauty and truth of faith in Christ.
From 1946 to 1951 he studied at the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology in Freising and at the University of Munich.
On 29 June 1951 he was ordained a priest, starting his teaching activity at the same School in Freising the following year.
He later taught in Bonn, Münster, Tübingen and Regensburg’.
The text continues: ‘In 1962 he became an official expert of the Second Vatican Council, as assistant to Cardinal Joseph Frings.
On 25 March 1977 Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Munich und Freising and he received episcopal ordination on 28 May of the same year.
As episcopal motto he chose ‘Cooperatores Veritatis’.
Pope Montini created and made him a Cardinal, of the Title of Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino, in the Consistory of 27 June 1977″.
“On 25 November 1981 John Paul II appointed him Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and on 15 February of the following year he resigned the pastoral governance of the Archdiocese of Munich und Freising.
On 6 November 1998 he was appointed Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals and on 30 November 2002 he became Dean, taking possession of the title of the Suburbicarian Church of Ostia.
On Friday, 8 April 2005,’ reads the deed, ‘he presided at John Paul II’s funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square. By the Cardinals gathered in Conclave he was elected Pope on 19 April 2005 and took the name Benedict XVI.
From the Loggia of Blessings he presented himself as a ‘humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord’.
On Sunday 24 April 2005, the deed recalls, ‘he solemnly began his Petrine ministry.
Benedict XVI placed the theme of God and faith at the centre of his pontificate, in a continuous search for the face of the Lord Jesus Christ and helping everyone to know Him, in particular through the publication of the three-volume work Jesus of Nazareth.
Endowed with vast and profound biblical and theological knowledge, he had the extraordinary ability to elaborate enlightening syntheses on the main doctrinal and spiritual themes, as well as on crucial issues in the life of the Church and contemporary culture.
He successfully promoted dialogue with Anglicans, Jews and representatives of other religions; he also resumed contacts with the priests of the St Pius X Community”.
On the morning “of 11 February 2013, during a Consistory convened for ordinary decisions about three canonisations,” the deed continues, “after the Cardinals had voted, the Pope read out the following statement in Latin: ‘Bene conscius sum hoc munus secundum suam essentiam spiritualem non solum agendo et loquendo exerceri debere, sed non minus patiendo et orando.
Attamen in mundo nostri temporis rapidis mutationibus subiecto et quaestionibus magni ponderis pro vita fidei perturbato ad navem Sancti Petri gubernandam et ad annuntiandum Evangelium etiam vigor quidam corporis et animae necessarius est, qui ultimis mensibus in me modo tali minuitur, ut incapacitatem meam ad ministerium mihi commissum bene administrandum agnoscere debeam.
Quapropter bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri, mihi per manus Cardinalium die 19 aprilis MMV commisso renuntiare ita ut a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora 20, sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri vacet et Conclave ad eligendum novum Summum Pontificem ab his quibus competit convocandum esse'”.
At the last General Audience of the pontificate, ‘on 27 February 2013,’ we read further, ‘in thanking each and everyone for the respect and understanding with which his decision had been received, he assured them: “I will continue to accompany the path of the Church with prayer and reflection, with that dedication to the Lord and his Bride that I have tried to live every day until now and that I would like to live always.
“After a brief stay in the Castel Gandolfo residence,” the deed concludes, “he lived the last years of his life in the Vatican, in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, devoting himself to prayer and meditation.
Benedict XVI’s doctrinal magisterium is summarised in the three Encyclicals Deus caritas est (25 December 2005), Spe salvi (30 November 2007) and Caritas in veritate (29 June 2009).
He delivered four Apostolic Exhortations to the Church, numerous Apostolic Constitutions, Apostolic Letters, as well as the Catecheses offered at the General Audiences and the allocutions, including those delivered during his twenty-four apostolic journeys around the world. In the face of increasingly rampant relativism and practical atheism, in 2010, with the motu proprio Ubicumque et semper, he established the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, to which he transferred catechetical powers in January 2013.
He firmly fought against crimes committed by clergy against minors or vulnerable people, constantly calling the Church to conversion, prayer, penance and purification.
As a theologian of recognised authority, he left a rich heritage of studies and research on the fundamental truths of the faith’.
BURIAL OF THE BODY OF BENEDICT XVI
The brief ceremony of the burial of the body took place privately and with only a few cardinals and those closest to the Pope Emeritus present, including his special secretary, Georg Gaenswein the funeral of Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square.
As announced in recent days, Joseph Ratzinger was buried in the tomb that was first Pope Roncalli’s and then Pope John Paul II’s.
In the coffin of the Pope Emeritus were placed the medals and coins minted during his pontificate, the pallium, i.e. the robes he wore in liturgical services during his ecclesiastical career as Metropolitan Archbishop of Munich and Rome, and then the rogito, i.e. the text briefly describing Pope Ratzinger’s pontificate, in a metal cylinder.
During the closing ritual, the Vatican seals and some bands were affixed to the coffin.
The cypress wood coffin was then placed in a zinc casket and then in a walnut casket.
Only then was it laid in the tomb carved into the floor inside a niche with an image of Our Lady.
Finally, the grave was closed with a marble slab and the notarial deed was drawn up.