ROME (OSV News) – In what looks like a continuation of pontifical legacy, Pope Benedict XVI was buried in the crypt where his Polish predecessor, St. John Paul II, was first buried. St. John XXIII also was buried there prior to his beatification.

A triple coffin – the first one made of cypress, the second of zinc and the third one of oak – was put into the grotto Jan. 5 following the funeral Mass with Pope Francis presiding.

The place of burial is unique for many who knew the fond relationship of St. John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope who was the Vatican’s chief doctrinal official under the Polish pontiff.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re sprinkles holy water on the casket of Pope Benedict XVI during its burial in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 5, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“It is a sign of friendship that goes way beyond their earthly life,” Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Charity, told OSV News. The cardinal was master of papal ceremonies under both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict.

“I think it truly symbolically closes the earthly symbiosis of the two popes – the Polish and German pontiff,” added Yago de la Cierva, professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

The Holy See Press Office predicted the crypt where Pope Benedict was laid to rest will be ready for the faithful to visit after Jan. 8.
The two popes had a unique intellectual friendship throughout St. John Paul’s papacy. They also were close collaborators. In 1981, the pontiff made Cardinal Ratzinger prefect of what was then called the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and since renamed a dicastery.

In Italy to this day, the office is called Sant’Uffizio, the Holy Office, and has been one of the most fundamental curial offices for centuries. As the doctrinal guardian office of the Catholic Church, it also is handling cases of clerical sexual abuse.

“I think Joseph Ratzinger was John Paul’s safety net. The Polish pope wanted to transform the Church in every country, but he needed someone to remain in the office to make sure his ‘new initiatives’ were truly Catholic, he needed to have a theologian as a backup. And Karol Wojtyla trusted Ratzinger in every doctrinal issue,” de la Cierva told OSV News.

Cardinal Ratzinger was the one behind many of the Polish pontiff’s documents.

“I remember one press conference with Joseph Ratzinger in the Holy See Press Office,” de la Cierva said. “Someone asked him what he thought about a papal encyclical, and with a smile on his face he answered that he didn’t need to give an opinion because he recognized himself in many texts of John Paul II.”

As history showed, he was writing first drafts of many of them.

After St. John Paul’s death April 2, 2005, newly elected Pope Benedict XVI often prayed at the tomb of his predecessor. On May 9, only a month after the Polish pontiff’s death, the new pope began the beatification process for Pope John Paul II. He was declared “blessed” May 1, 2011. (Pope Francis canonized him and St. John XXIII in 2014.)

Even if their characters seemed a world away, Pope Benedict was similar to St. John Paul in many aspects.

“Pope Benedict XVI would spend a lot of time in the chapel. He was a man of prayer and at the same time a titan of work,” Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, the Latin Church metropolitan of Lviv, Ukraine, told OSV News.

Archbishop Mokrzycki was a secretary of St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict asked him to continue his mission for the first two years of his papacy. Then the German pope made him archbishop of Lviv in western Ukraine, a city with deep Polish roots.

“When I arrived there, we were renovating the residence of the Lviv bishops, and I put a stained-glass window with both John Paul and Benedict there,” Archbishop Mokrzycki told OSV News. “I truly believe one day he will become a saint, I saw his everyday work, and I can tell this was a holy man.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Benedict XVI “spread and testified to” the Gospel his entire life, Pope Francis told tens of thousands of people gathered Jan. 5 for his predecessor’s funeral Mass.

“Like the women at the tomb, we too have come with the fragrance of gratitude and the balm of hope, in order to show him once more the love that is undying. We want to do this with the same wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon us over the years,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

The Mass in St. Peter’s Square was the first time in more than 200 years that a pope celebrated the funeral of his predecessor. Pope Pius VII had celebrated the funeral of Pius VI in 1802 when his remains were returned to Rome after he died in exile in France in 1799.

Pope Francis presides over the funeral Mass of Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 5, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Benedict, who had retired in 2013, had requested his funeral be simple; the only heads of state invited to lead delegations were those of Italy and his native Germany.

However, many dignitaries – including Queen Sofia of Spain and King Philippe of Belgium – and presidents and government ministers representing more than a dozen nations were in attendance, as were most of the ambassadors to the Holy See.

Members of the College of Cardinals sat on one side of the casket, while, on the other side, sat special guests, including the late pope’s closest collaborators and representatives of the Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant and U.S. evangelical communities. Jewish and Muslim organizations also sent delegations.

Pope Francis presided over the Mass and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, was the main celebrant at the altar. Some 120 cardinals, another 400 bishops and 3,700 priests concelebrated. The vestments and stoles were red in keeping with the color of mourning for deceased popes.

Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who turns 91 Jan. 13, was allowed to leave China to attend the funeral of Pope Benedict, who had made him a cardinal in 2006. The retired cardinal was arrested in May and fined in November together with five others on charges of failing to properly register a now-defunct fund to help anti-government protesters.

More than 1,000 journalists, photographers and camera operators from around the world were accredited to cover the funeral in St. Peter’s Square.

An estimated 50,000 people filled the square for the Mass, and a number of visitors told Catholic News Service that banners and flags were being confiscated by security upon entrance. Of the few flags and banners that did make it past security was a white cloth with “Santo Subito” (“Sainthood Now”) written in red and a “Thank you, Pope Benedict” written in light blue in German.

Just as Pope Benedict dedicated his pontificate to directing the faithful’s focus to the person of Christ, Pope Francis dedicated his homily to Christ’s loving devotion and suffering witness as the “invitation and the program of life that he quietly inspires in us,” rather than on a summary of his predecessor’s life.

Pope Francis spoke of Jesus’ grateful, prayerful and sustained devotion to God’s will and how Jesus’ final words on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” summed up his entire life, “a ceaseless self-entrustment into the hands of his Father.”

“His were hands of forgiveness and compassion, healing and mercy, anointing and blessing, which led him also to entrust himself into the hands of his brothers and sisters,” he said.

“Father into your hands I commend my spirit,” the pope said, is the plan for life that Jesus quietly invites and inspires people to follow.

However, he said, the path requires sustained and prayerful devotion that is “silently shaped and refined amid the challenges and resistance that every pastor must face in trusting obedience to the Lord’s command to feed his flock.”

“Like the Master, a shepherd bears the burden of interceding and the strain of anointing his people, especially in situations where goodness must struggle to prevail and the dignity of our brothers and sisters is threatened,” said the pope.

“The Lord quietly bestows the spirit of meekness that is ready to understand, accept, hope and risk, notwithstanding any misunderstandings that might result. It is the source of an unseen and elusive fruitfulness, born of his knowing the One in whom he has placed his trust,” he said.

“Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence,” Pope Francis said, quoting his predecessor’s homily marking the start of his pontificate April 24, 2005.

“Holding fast to the Lord’s last words and to the witness of his entire life, we too, as an ecclesial community, want to follow in his steps and to commend our brother into the hands of the Father,” he said of Pope Benedict. “May those merciful hands find his lamp alight with the oil of the Gospel that he spread and testified to for his entire life.”

“God’s faithful people, gathered here, now accompany and entrust to him the life of the one who was their pastor,” the pope said. “Together, we want to say, ‘Father, into your hands we commend his spirit.'”

“Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!” he concluded, as the crowd prayed in silence.

Among the people in the crowd was Georg Bruckmaier who traveled nearly 10 hours by car to come to the funeral from his home in Bavaria, not far away from where the late pope was born.

Wearing a Bavarian flag around his back, he told CNS, “There are a lot of Bavarians here today, I’ve seen people I know from university. I wanted to be here for the atmosphere.”

“People felt very close to him, because he is a Bavarian, so this is a really big event to be here,” Bruckmaier said, adding that being able to pay his last respects before the pope’s remains in St. Peter’s Basilica, “is a different thing than seeing it on television. It’s something I won’t forget in my whole life.”

Fiona-Louise Devlin told CNS she and her companions were wearing scarves from the late pope’s visit to Scotland in 2010. She said they traveled to Rome from Scotland specifically for the funeral, booking their flight the day the pope passed away.

“He’s the pope of our generation. Like, how so many people say that John Paul II was their pope, he was mine. I’ve traveled around the world to go to celebrations that he’s been a part of, so I wanted to be here for this,” she said.

As the day began, the thick morning fog obscuring the cupola slowly began to lift as 12 laymen emerged from the basilica carrying the pope’s casket. The crowd applauded as the cypress casket was brought into the square and placed before the altar.

The pope’s master of liturgical ceremonies, Msgr. Diego Giovanni Ravelli, and Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the late pope’s longtime personal secretary, together placed an opened Book of the Gospels on the casket. The simple casket was decorated with his coat of arms as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, which depicts a shell, a Moor and a bear loaded with a pack on his back.

The Bible readings at the Mass were in Spanish, English and Italian, and the prayers of the faithful at the Mass were recited in German, French, Arabic, Portuguese and Italian.

The prayers included petitions for “Pope Emeritus Benedict, who has fallen asleep in the Lord: may the eternal Shepherd receive him into his kingdom of light and peace,” followed by a prayer “for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and for all the pastors of the church: may they proclaim fearlessly, in word and deed, Christ’s victory over evil and death.”

The other prayers were for justice and peace in the world, for those suffering from poverty and other forms of need, and for those gathered at the funeral.

At the pope’s funeral, like any Catholic funeral, Communion was followed by the “final commendation and farewell,” asking that “Pope Emeritus Benedict” be delivered from death and “may sing God’s praises in the heavenly Jerusalem.”

Pope Francis prayed that God have mercy on his predecessor, who was “a fearless preacher of your word and a faithful minister of the divine mysteries.”

While the funeral was based on the model of a papal funeral, two key elements normally part of a papal funeral following the farewell prayer were missing: there were no prayers offered by representatives of the Diocese of Rome and of the Eastern Catholic churches, since those prayers are specific to the death of a reigning pope, who is bishop of the Diocese of Rome and is in communion with the leaders of the Eastern-rite churches.

A bell tolled solemnly and the assembly applauded for several minutes — with some chanting “Benedetto” — as the pallbearers carried the casket toward St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis blessed the casket and laid his right hand on it in prayer, then bowed slightly in reverence before it was taken inside for a private burial in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica, in the same tomb that held the remains of St. Pope John Paul II before his beatification.

The evening before the funeral Mass a small assembly of cardinals, officials of St. Peter’s Basilica and members of the late pope’s household gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica to witness Pope Benedict’s body being placed into a cypress casket and closed. The ceremony took place Jan. 4 after about 195,000 people had paid their respects to the pope over three days of public viewing.

The “rogito,” a document rolled up and placed in a tube, was placed in the casket with the body. In addition to containing his biography, the legal document, written in Latin, also attested to his death and burial. Medals and coins minted during his pontificate also were placed in the casket.

Archbishop Gänswein and Msgr. Ravelli extended a white silk cloth over the deceased pope’s face. The pope was wearing a miter and the chasuble he wore for Mass at World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008; between his clasped hands were a rosary and small crucifix.

After the funeral Mass, the pope’s casket was taken to the chapel in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica where he was to be buried.

Although the burial was private, images supplied by Vatican Media showed Cardinal Re leading prayers and blessing the remains during the burial rite attended by a small number of senior cardinals, the retired pope’s closest aides and others.

The cypress casket was wrapped with red ribbon, which was affixed to the wood with red wax seals, then placed inside a zinc casket soldered shut and put inside a larger casket made of oak. The tops of both the zinc and oak caskets were decorated with a simple cross, a bronze plaque with the pope’s name and dates of birth, papacy and death, and his papal coat of arms.

His tomb is located between the only two women buried in the grotto under the basilica: the 15th-century Queen Charlotte of Cyprus and the 17th-century Queen Christina of Sweden.

The burial ceremony ended before 1 p.m. but Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said he thought the crypt would not be open to the public until Jan. 8.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Benedict XVI was a renowned theologian, a “recognized authority,” who left “a rich legacy of studies and research on the fundamental truths of the faith,” said the official summary of his life and papacy.

The 1,000-word text, known as a “rogito,” was rolled up, slipped into a metal cylinder and placed with his body in a cypress casket late Jan. 4 after an estimated 195,000 people had passed by his body in St. Peter’s Square to pay their respects.

The text, released in Latin and Italian shortly before the pope’s funeral Mass Jan. 5, highlighted his work as a theologian, his ecumenical outreach, his relations with the Jewish community and his efforts to deal with the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

The Book of the Gospels rests on the casket of Pope Benedict XVI during his funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 5, 2023. The night before the funeral, when his body was placed in the casket, the Vatican also placed in it a metal tube containing a 1,000-word text, known as a “rogito,” summarizing his life and ministry. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The short biography about his birth, childhood and education also noted that “the time of his youth was not easy. His family’s faith and his upbringing prepared him for the difficult experience of the problems associated with the Nazi regime, knowing the climate of strong hostility toward the Catholic Church in Germany.”

However, it said, “in this complex situation, he discovered the beauty and truth of faith in Christ.”

The text spoke of his ordination and his career as a professor of theology and noted his role as a “peritus” or theological adviser at the Second Vatican Council, his appointment as archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977 and his creation as a cardinal by St. Paul VI later that same year.

“On Friday, April 8, 2005,” it said, “he presided over the Holy Mass for the funeral of John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square.”

Elected St. John Paul’s successor April 19, 2005, it said, “he presented himself as ‘a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord'” when he greeted the crowds from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Benedict XVI placed the theme of God and faith at the center of his pontificate in a continuous search for the face of the Lord Jesus Christ,” the text said. He tried to help “everyone to know him, particularly 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 major doctrinal and spiritual themes, as well as on crucial issues in the life of the church and contemporary culture,” the rogito continued.

Turning to his efforts at dialogue, the document said that “he successfully promoted dialogue with Anglicans, Jews and representatives of other religions, as well as resumed contacts with the priests of the St. Pius X community.”

The mention of Anglicans seemed to refer to initial tensions and then a resumption of dialogue after Pope Benedict made special pastoral provisions for Catholics coming from the Anglican tradition, establishing in 2009 personal ordinariates, jurisdictions similar to dioceses, which recognize their full communion with Rome while preserving some of their Anglican heritage.

The “resumed contacts with the priests of the St. Pius X community,” referred to the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X and other Catholics attached to the “extraordinary” or pre-Vatican II form of the Mass. Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications of four of the society’s bishops who were ordained illicitly in 1988 and launched a long and intense dialogue with the group.

Pope Benedict’s papal teaching, in encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, catechesis at his general audiences and speeches and homilies “delivered during his 24 apostolic journeys around the world” also were mentioned.

“In the face of increasingly rampant relativism and practical atheism,” it said, he established the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization in 2010.

And, the document said, “he firmly fought against crimes committed by members of the clergy against minors and vulnerable people, continually calling the church to conversion, prayer, penance and purification.”

Pope Benedict was the first pope in some 600 years to resign.

The rogito included the complete text he read in Latin Feb. 11, 2013, when he announced at an ordinary consistory of cardinals that he was stepping down. He had explained that “in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Just before 7 a.m. Jan. 5, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was so shrouded with fog that it was scarcely visible. Yet the sounds of German folk music permeated the dense air as some 500 traditionally dressed Bavarians descended upon the Vatican to attend the funeral of their beloved countryman, Pope Benedict XVI.

Although they traveled some 10 hours to pay their final respects to the late pope, the mood in St. Peter’s Square in the hours leading up to the historic funeral was much more festive than somber. Several Bavarian pilgrims told Catholic News Service it was an opportunity to celebrate the life of the first German pope since 1057, and to showcase their pride in the region he came from.

Pilgrims from Bavaria in Germany arrive for the funeral Mass of Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 5, 2023. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Manuel Kustermann, dressed in lederhosen, toted a large bass drum bearing the insignia of his hometown as he marched into the square.

“It’s crazy to see all these people here dressed up like this, because usually we just see all of this at home,” he said. “I think we can add our little part to this ceremony by playing some music from Bavaria, the kind of music Benedict grew up with.”

Pilgrims from all over the globe who gathered in the square were eager to recount their memories of the late pope and share how he affected their lives and their faith.

A group of 20 women, members of the Notre-Dame de Vie secular institute, drove 12 hours from southern France to attend the funeral. One member of the group, Marguerite Mouton, said she had seen the late pope on four different occasions, and didn’t want to miss the chance for a fifth.

“We are the church, so we wanted to gather with the church, here in person, for this moment,” she told CNS. Pope Benedict “taught me what it means to believe simply. To be a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.”

Others in the crowd were happy to get a front row seat to the historical event while on vacation. Crys Keler Formentin from Brazil, along with four friends, stood in St. Peter’s Square with their luggage. They had come to the Vatican straight from the airport after hearing that Pope Benedict’s funeral was the day they were arriving in Rome on tickets purchased months ago.

“It’s very exciting to be here and be able to witness this event that has no precedent, no protocol,” she told CNS. “My family is Catholic, so I had seen (Pope Benedict) a lot on television. He’s famous in my house.”

Nearby Karolina Hejka, a Polish woman, was standing alongside a bright pink floral suitcase and an overnight bag; she also said being present for the funeral was a surprise.

“I am only in Rome for a few hours, but I didn’t want to miss this. It only happens once in a lifetime.”

Sergio Innocenti from Genoa told CNS he brought to the funeral a rosary Pope Benedict had blessed during the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. As he raised his hands to convey the amount of rain that poured down on the more than 1 million young people gathered for Mass that day, a Paraguayan woman from across the aisle recognized the story and interjected in Spanish — “I was there, too!

“That is the image of him in my mind,” she added, “that of the captain of a ship suffering through a storm.”

“It was a mess, people started to leave, but we stayed there,” she said. “He gave us the strength to remain there with him.”

Fiona-Louise Devlin and John Patrick Mallon wore scarves from Pope Benedict’s 2010 trip to their native Scotland. They said they bought their tickets to Rome the day the late pope died to give thanks for how he shaped their faith.

While posing for photos with their scarves extended, the pair fought back their smiles, and Devlin explained why:

“I know it’s a funeral, but I’m just so happy to be here.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Jan. 5 funeral Mass for Pope Benedict XVI will be a papal funeral with a few changes to fit with the fact that he was not the reigning pope and has not left behind a “sede vacante.”

“The liturgical celebration follows the model of a funeral service for a supreme pontiff, broadly speaking,” Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters Jan. 3.

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, sprinkles holy water on the casket of Pope John Paul II during his funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this April 8, 2005, file photo. (OSV News photo/Catholic Press Photo)

While based on a traditional papal funeral, he said, it will have “some new elements that give the rite its originality and some missing elements, which are those that are more pertinent to a reigning pontiff.”

For example, there are no final prayers offered by representatives of the Diocese of Rome and of the Eastern Catholic churches, since those prayers are specific to the death of a reigning pope, who is bishop of the Diocese of Rome and is in communion with the leaders of the Eastern-rite churches.

Bruni spoke to reporters in the Vatican press office after the booklet for the funeral Mass was published by the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

The Mass booklet features a color reproduction of Caravaggio’s “Deposition” or entombment of Christ — a 17th-century masterpiece housed in the Vatican Museums.

Some differences can be seen in some of the prayers and the readings, Bruni said.

The first reading will be taken from the Book of Isaiah (29:16-19) in which the Lord says there will be a day when the deaf will hear the words of a scroll “and, after gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see. But the lowly will rejoice in the Lord even more and the poorest exult in the Holy One of Israel.”

In comparison, the first reading at St. John Paul II’s funeral Mass was “Peter’s Speech” from the Acts of the Apostles (10:34-43), which speaks of the apostles’ mandate to preach and testify that everyone who believes in Christ “will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The second reading for the Jan. 5 Mass is from the first letter of St. Peter (1:3-9) which praises God’s mercy giving the faithful “a new birth” as his children and “by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise” of eternal life in heaven.

The second reading at St. John Paul’s funeral was from the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians (3:20-4:1) about the faithful’s “citizenship in heaven.”

The Gospel reading for Pope Benedict’s funeral Mass was to be from St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ final moments on the cross and telling the “good thief” who recognized him as the Christ, “today you will be with me in paradise.” The Gospel reading for St. John Paul’s funeral Mass was from John (21: 15-19) when Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep.

The only other notable changes are in the prayers of the faithful. They include petitions for “Pope Emeritus Benedict, who has fallen asleep in the Lord: may the eternal Shepherd receive him into his kingdom of light and peace,” followed by a prayer “for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and for all the pastors of the church: may they proclaim fearlessly, in word and deed, Christ’s victory over evil and death.”

Pope Benedict had wished his funeral to be simple, Bruni had said, emphasizing it would be “solemn, but sober.” Pope Francis will preside over the funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, will be the main celebrant at the altar.

Some traditions connected with the death and burial of a pope will be followed, Bruni said, such as three objects being deposited in the pope’s casket before he is buried: his palliums, coins and medals minted during his pontificate, and a “rogito” or scroll that summarizes in Latin the highlights of his papacy.

Responding to questions about whether Pope Benedict XVI would be buried with a pastoral staff or a papal ferula, which is a staff topped with a cross, Bruni said the ferula is only held by a reigning pope and that no pope is ever buried with either item.

After public viewing of his body ends the evening of Jan. 4, Pope Benedict will be placed in a traditional cypress casket, following a traditional ritual, Bruni said.

Before the funeral, the casket will be carried into St. Peter’s Square and the faithful will be asked to join the recitation of the rosary before Mass.

After the funeral, again following tradition, the casket will be sealed and wrapped with ribbons, then it will be placed inside a zinc casket that will be soldered and sealed, and then that will be placed inside a casket made of wood.

The moment of his burial in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica, where other popes are buried, will be private, Bruni said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A quiet hush covered the vast expanse of St. Peter’s Square even though it was filled with thousands of people slowly winding their way around the colonnade into St. Peter’s Basilica to pay their last respects to the late Pope Benedict XVI.

Outdoor souvenir sellers were well-stocked with rosaries Jan. 2, but they seemed to have been caught off guard with a plethora of touristy tchotchkes and few to no images or mementos of the late pope.

The body of Pope Benedict XVI lies in St. Peter’s Basilica for public viewing at the Vatican Jan. 2, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

A damp chill hung in the air at 9 in the morning when the doors of the basilica opened to the public on the first of three days to view the pope’s body.

Special accommodations, however, were made for officials of the Roman Curia, Vatican staff and dignitaries who were allowed access from the back of the basilica and offered a place to sit or kneel on either side of the pope’s body, which was laid out in red vestments on a damask-covered platform.

Before the doors opened to the general public, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of the basilica and papal vicar for Vatican City State, accompanied Italian President Sergio Mattarella and his entourage and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and other government ministers to pay homage to the late pope.

The first in line outside the basilica was a group of religious sisters from the Philippines, who said they got there at 5:30 a.m.

People kept slowly arriving before sunrise, including a group from Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, led by Father Richard Kunst of Duluth. The priest told Catholic News Service that he was leading a tour of Rome the day Pope Benedict died.

Being able to see and pay homage to the late pope made the group part of “a really incredible piece of history,” he said.

Father Kunst said he was “a big fan” of Pope Benedict and “not sad at his passing” since the 95-year-old pope had lived a long life and “this is what he lived for — to be able to be with God.”

Father Felipe de Jesús Sánchez, who is from Mexico and is studying in Rome, told CNS that he saw Pope Benedict as “a simple man, humble, a model, who didn’t have as much fame as John Paul II, but he was the mind behind him.”

“For me, in my personal opinion, he was an authentic testimony of what it means to be Christian and a disciple of Jesus,” he said.

Father Matthew Schmitz was with a group of 90 young people from ECYD, an international Catholic youth organization affiliated with Regnum Christi.

“We were praying while we were waiting, we prayed the rosary” and went inside the basilica in silence, he told CNS.

He said he was in Rome for his studies when Pope Benedict was elected in 2005, and “I met him once after an Easter Mass,” which means “I’m still kind of processing” the fact that he found himself back in Rome when the pope died.

Ana Sofia de Luna, who is with ECYD and from Mexico, said, “It’s very sad that Pope Benedict died, but being here and seeing his body was a great blessing, to be able to ask for grace and seeing his body there was very impactful.”

Daniela Romero, a member of the group from Guatemala, said, “to be able to come here and see that we are representing and supporting the church is a blessing.”

Father Justin Kizewski happened to be traveling with a group of 45 seminarians and nine priests on pilgrimage from Madison, Wisconsin.

He said, “I’ve been privileged to accompany him through his pontificate: I was here in the square when he was elected, I was here in the square when he resigned, and now here when he’s lying in state.”

“When we read his writings, or heard him preach, or saw him celebrate the Mass, we really saw a man that cares for his sheep and gives us an example of how to care for ours,” he said.

Hannah O’Connor from Rhode Island credits Pope Benedict as being instrumental in her conversion during college, where “we read a lot of Ratzinger.”

His writings and pontificate were “an important part of my journey,” she said, and “I hope that people keep encountering his works and are brought to the one church through beauty, that’s what really drew me in.”

Sugey Viramontes from Mexico told CNS that, “without a doubt, his example of simplicity, and above all how he spent his last few years, always in prayer, is a great example for us young people.”

Inside the basilica, staff and security kept visitors moving smoothly and quickly, letting people stop before the pope’s remains long enough to make the sign of the cross and take a picture or two before being asked quietly to “Please, move along.”

However, many took advantage of the large nooks and niches in the basilica to press up against a wall or barricade and linger just a little while longer.

Pope Benedict’s mortal remains were to lie in repose in the basilica for three days until the late evening of Jan. 4; Pope Francis was scheduled to preside over the funeral Mass Jan. 5.

Rome authorities estimated there would be 30,000 to 35,000 people a day visiting the basilica and an estimated 60,000 people attending the funeral in St. Peter’s Square. But Vatican police said that 40,000 people had already entered the basilica to pray by 2 p.m. Jan. 2.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Retired Pope Benedict XVI’s final message to Catholics around the world was: “Stand firm in the faith! Do not let yourselves be confused!”

Less than 10 hours after informing the world that the 95-year-old pope had died Dec. 31, the Vatican press office released his spiritual testament, a statement of faith and of thanksgiving.

Unlike St. John Paul II’s spiritual testament, Pope Benedict’s included no instructions for his funeral or burial and made no mention of what should happen to his belongings.

Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges pilgrims during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 4, 2009. Pope Benedict died Dec. 31, 2022, at the age of 95 in his residence at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“To all those whom I have wronged in any way, I ask forgiveness from my heart,” Pope Benedict wrote.

Written in German and dated Aug. 29, 2006 – in the second year of his almost eight-year pontificate – Pope Benedict wrote with great affection of his parents, his sister and his brother, the beauty of Bavaria and his faith in God.

“If at this late hour of my life I look back over the decades I have been living, I first see how many reasons I have to give thanks,” he wrote in the document when he was 79 years old.

“First of all, I thank God himself, the giver of every good gift, who gave me life and guided me through various moments of confusion; always picking me up whenever I began to slip and always giving me the light of his countenance again,” he said. “In retrospect I see and understand that even the dark and tiring stretches of this path were for my salvation and that it was in them that he guided me well.”

Born in 1927, Joseph Ratzinger was raised in a Germany struggling to recover from the first World War; Adolf Hitler came to power when the future pope was only 7.

In his testament, he offered thanks to his parents, “who gave me life in a difficult time and who, at the cost of great sacrifices, with their love prepared a magnificent home that like a clear light still enlightens my days.”

“My father’s lucid faith taught us children to believe, and as a signpost it has always stood firm in the midst of all my academic achievements,” he said. “My mother’s profound devotion and great goodness are a legacy for which I cannot thank her enough.”

Pope Benedict thanked God for the many friends, both men and women, he had had by his side, and for his teachers and students — many of whom he continued to meet with late in his life.

A pope known for his concern for the environment, he thanked God for the beauty of his Bavarian homeland, “in which I always saw the splendor of the Creator himself shining through.”

“I pray that our land remains a land of faith,” he wrote before pleading with his fellow Germans to let nothing draw them from the faith.

“And, finally,” he wrote, “I thank God for all the beauty I experienced at every stage of my journey, especially in Rome and in Italy, which became my second homeland.”

Addressing the whole church, Pope Benedict urged Catholics to hold fast to their faith and to not let science or research shake the foundations of their belief.

“It often seems as if science – the natural sciences on the one hand and historical research, like the exegesis of Sacred Scripture, on the other – are able to offer irrefutable results at odds with the Catholic faith,” he said.

But he assured those reading the document that throughout his life he had seen science offer “apparent certainties against the faith” only to see them vanish, “proving not to be science, but philosophical interpretations only apparently pertaining to science.”

At the same time, he said, “it is in dialogue with the natural sciences that faith too has learned to better understand the limit of the scope of its claims, and thus its specificity.”

In 60 years of theological study and observation, he said, he had seen “unshakable” theses collapse, including those offered by the “Marxist generation” of theologians.

“The reasonableness of faith has emerged and is emerging again,” he wrote. “Jesus Christ is truly the way, the truth and the life – and the church, with all its inadequacies, is truly his body.”

In the end, Pope Benedict wrote, “I humbly ask: pray for me, so that the Lord, despite all my sins and inadequacies, may receive me into his eternal dwelling.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – It is “intolerable” that conflict and wars are still raging in Ukraine and other parts of the world, Pope Francis said on World Peace Day.

People throughout the world are crying out, “No to war! No to rearmament! May resources go to development, health, food, education and jobs,” the pope said Jan. 1 after praying the Angelus with some 40,000 visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

St. Paul VI inaugurated the first World Day of Peace in 1968 as a day to be dedicated to prayer and reflection for world peace, he said.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 1, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Today, decades later, it is even more strongly apparent how “intolerable the conflict of war, which in Ukraine and other regions sows death and destruction,” is, the pope said.

“However, we do not lose hope because we have faith in God, who in Jesus Christ has opened for us the way of peace,” he said.

“The experience of the pandemic teaches us that no one can save himself alone, but that together we can walk the path of peace and development,” he said.

With the Jan. 1 celebration of the World Day of Peace, he said in his address before reciting the Angelus, “Let us regain awareness of the responsibility that has been entrusted to us to construct the future in the face of the personal and social crises we are living, in the face of the tragedy of the war.”

It can be done, he said, “if we take care of each other and if, all of us together, take care of our common home.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In accordance with Pope Benedict XVI’s wishes, his funeral and moments of prayer surrounding it will be simple, according to the Vatican press office.

The 95-year-old pope’s body will stay at his private residence, where he passed away Dec. 31, until early Jan. 2, during which time “no official visits or public prayers are planned,” the press office said in a statement Dec. 31.

The body of the late Pope Benedict XVI lies in the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery at the Vatican Jan. 1, 2023. Pope Benedict died Dec. 31 at the monastery at the age of 95. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

His remains will then be brought to St. Peter’s Basilica, where, starting at 9 a.m., people will be able to pay their last respects and offer their prayers from Jan. 2 to Jan. 4, it said.

The funeral Mass, presided over by Pope Francis, will be in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 5 starting at 9:30 a.m. Rome time. And the only official delegations to be present will be from Germany and Italy, the Vatican said.

After the funeral Mass, the coffin will be taken to St. Peter’s Basilica and then to the Vatican grotto for burial. It was widely reported before his death that his burial site would be in the chapel where St. John Paul II’s body rested until his beatification in 2011.

In death the body of Pope Benedict XVI was dressed in a red chasuble, a tradition for deceased popes, but photos provided by the Vatican Jan. 1 showed he was not wearing a pallium, the woolen band the pope and archbishops wear to symbolize how they carry their flocks on their shoulders. He was wearing black shoes – not the red ones he was known for as pope – and was holding a crucifix and rosary.

After his death, the late pope’s body was moved into the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens. Pope Benedict had moved into the building shortly after retiring in 2013.

Photos shared on social media showed cardinals and friends of the late pope praying next to his body in the chapel.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said the reception of the body into St. Peter’s Basilica would be a private ceremony.

Just a few hours after Pope Benedict died at 9:34 a.m. Dec. 31, Bruni told reporters that Pope Benedict wanted his funeral and related events to be carried out “in a sign of simplicity.”

Bruni also said the retired pope received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick Dec. 28, the day Pope Francis told people Pope Benedict was “very sick” and in need of prayers.

“Ask the Lord to console him and sustain him in his witness of love for the church until the very end,” Pope Francis had said at the end of his general audience.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Across the U.S., Catholic bishops called on the faithful to unite in mourning for retired Pope Benedict XVI, who died on the eve of the new year.

“While we grieve that he is no longer with us here, I join Catholics everywhere in offering my profound gratitude to the Lord for the gift of Pope Benedict XVI and his ministry,” said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Together we beg our Lord to grant him eternal rest.”

Pope Benedict XVI appears on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica after his election April 19, 2005. Pope Benedict died Dec. 31, 2022, at the age of 95 in his residence at the Vatican.(CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Benedict XVI (1927-2022) passed away Dec. 31 at 95 years old, nearly a decade after resigning the papacy — an event not seen in 600 years. He led the Catholic Church as pope from 2005-2013, previously served under Pope St. John Paul II for more than 20 years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and was one of the last living participants at the Second Vatican Council.

Archbishop Broglio, who also heads the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, said Benedict’s passing “sounds contrasting notes of sorrow and gratitude in my heart.” The Dec. 31 statement noted the late retired pope was “a superb theologian” and “effective teacher of the faith” who left a wealth of learning for the whole Church.

“As a priest, university professor and theologian, archbishop and cardinal, his voice in deepening an authentic understanding led all of us to a more profound love of truth and the mystery of God,” he said.

The USCCB president also praised Pope Benedict XVI for his decision to retire from the papacy in 2013 – a move that “shocked the world” but “continued his teaching about courage, humility and love for the Church.”

Even in retirement, he said, Pope Benedict XVI “continued to teach us how to be a true disciple of Christ, while still contributing to his legacy.”

From coast-to-coast, tributes to Pope Benedict XVI from U.S. Catholic bishops kept pouring in, reflecting on his legacy, virtues, and his love of Christ.

“His long life included not only his ecclesial contributions, but his impassioned pleas for world peace, human understanding, and global solidarity,” Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, said in a statement praising Benedict’s distinguished and generous life in service to Catholicism and humanity.”

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, whom Pope Benedict XVI made a cardinal in 2006, and president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since its establishment in 2014, said in a statement that he always found the late pope to be “an engaged leader, thoughtful in his decisions and always committed to the mission of the Church.”

Cardinal O’Malley recalled Pope Benedict XVI’s “deep pastoral care for the survivors” when the cardinal accompanied survivors of clergy sexual abuse to a meeting with the pope in Washington during the pontiff’s 2008 pastoral visit to the United States. He said it was “perhaps the most moving experience for me.”

The pope “recognized the pain experienced by survivors and all persons impacted by the abuse crisis,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “He was then, and at all times remained, committed to the Church supporting their journey toward healing and doing all that was possible to ensure the protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults.”

Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, Tennessee, noted Pope Benedict XVI was “well prepared to serve when elected to lead the Church as successor to St. John Paul II,” and that his “strength and compassion … carried the world through periods of moral, political, and societal challenges on the firm footing of the depth and breadth of Catholic teaching.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, called on his diocese to both “unite in prayer” for the retired pope as they mourn and also give thanks to God for Benedict’s “example and witness.”

“A devoted student of the Word of God and steeped in the Church’s liturgical and theological tradition, he was able to engage the modern world with intellectual clarity and pastoral charity,” Bishop Burbidge said.

As a scholar and churchman his whole life, Pope Benedict XVI “showed us what it means to fulfill the ancient command to love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago.

“As the last pope who attended the Second Vatican Council, he has served as a bridge to the future, reminding us all that the reform and renewal of the church is ongoing,” the cardinal said in a Dec. 31 statement.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston also noted Pope Benedict XVI’s “first-hand” knowledge of Vatican II’s teaching, and said his scholarly work will shape the church for years to come. His statement said the former pope’s “keen intellect invigorated the New Evangelization by drawing hearts and minds into the mystery of our redemption in Christ, and inspiring countless men and women to spread the Gospel by the example of their lives.”

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco said Pope Benedict XVI’s passing “marks the loss of one of the world’s greatest theologians and pastors of souls of the 20th and early 21st centuries.”

“Many generations to come will benefit from the breadth and depth of his understanding of our faith tradition and ability to communicate it clearly and effectively,” he said in a statement provided to OSV News by his communications office. “For those of us who have had the great blessing of interacting with him on a personal level, we will always be inspired by his gentleness, kindness, wit and ability to listen with respect and compassion.”

Many U.S. bishops also reflected on how Pope Benedict XVI’s intellectual contributions and humility went hand-in-hand, rooted in a life of following Jesus Christ.

Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison, Wisconsin said one found in Pope Benedict XVI “a remarkable convergence of the soul, intellect, heart and will of a man radically convicted of the truth of the Gospel and fully dedicated to serving the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.”

“He knew who he was before the Lord, without pretense or artifice,” Bishop Hying said in a statement. “This humility grounded him through the trials, difficulties, and controversies of his varied and demanding life, poured out for Christ and the saving truth of our beautiful Catholic faith.”

Pope Benedict XVI also was a “man of true humility” who radiated “quiet, authentic joy in Christ,” said Ukrainian Catholic archbishop Borys Gudziak of Philadelphia in a Facebook post written originally in Ukrainian. “In an age of flaunted raw ambition, he did not cling to power. He lived eucharistically. He witnessed a spiritual peace, a focus on the Lord, a profound goodness, forged by the capacity to say ‘I am sorry.'”

Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego also reflected on Pope Benedict XVI’s death with “sadness and gratitude,” saying he served God “with sacrifice and courage, brilliance and wisdom, humility and kindness for his entire life.”

“He was a theologian of immense depth, a caring pastor and a prayerful servant who unswervingly sought to follow the pathway to which God was calling him,” Cardinal McElroy said.

“In loving Jesus Christ he brought grace to the Church and ennobled or world.”