The funeral of former Pope Benedict XVI was held at the Vatican : NPR

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Former Pope Benedict XVI was laid to rest in the Vatican on Thursday after his funeral, ending an unprecedented decade in which a reigning pope lived side by side was there before.



MARY LOUISE KELLY, Guest:

The funeral of former Pope Benedict XVI was held in the Vatican today. It ended an unprecedented ten years in which a reigning pope lived side by side with his predecessor. Pope Francis led the requiem mass today in St. Peter’s Square. Afterwards, Benedict was buried in the crypt under the basilica along with his predecessors. From Rome, NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli has this report.

(Audio from archive recording)

Unidentified choir: (Singing, inaudible).

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: The air was humid and thick with smoke as mourners began arriving at St. Peter’s Square in the dark, hours before the funeral mass. Security was tight. When the service ended, the sun was shining and the mood was happier among the 50,000 people who Italian officials say were present.

(Audio from archive recording)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in a language other than English).

POGGIOLI: The Vatican had said that, in accordance with Benedict’s wishes, the ceremony would be simple and solemn. But in the end, it was little different from the elaborate liturgy used when a reigning pope died. Only a few special prayers and readings were omitted. Pope Francis, wearing the crumpled clothes associated with papal funerals, arrived in a wheelchair and sat most of the time due to his ailing knee. He celebrated the mass, together with 125 cardinals, hundreds of bishops and thousands of priests. In his homily, Francis offered a reflection on Christ but did not praise his predecessor. He attacked the image of the women in the gospel stories who prayed at the grave of the deceased.

(Audio from archive recording)

POPE FRANCIS: (Through translator) We too have come with the fragrance of gratitude and the balm of hope to show him the undying love again. We want to do this with the same wisdom, kindness and passion that he has given us over the years.

POGGIOLI: And Francis mentioned his predecessor by name only once, commending his spirit into the hands of God.

(Audio from archive recording)

FRANCIS: (Through translator) Benedict, may your joy be complete when you hear his voice now and forever.

POGGIOLI: Earlier today, the Vatican released an official biography of Benedict’s life. The document, which was written in Latin, called the late former pope out to Anglicans and Jews and his efforts to combat clerical sexual abuse. It was under Benedict’s watch that these scandals broke out all over the world. Benedict is also remembered as an enforcer of orthodoxy under his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, when, like Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the time, he presided over a major crackdown on dissent, disciplining theologians in Latin America and the United States. After becoming the first pope to resign in 600 years, Benedict was hailed as the standard bearer for conservative Catholics to oppose the liberal reforms of Pope Francis.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

POGGIOLI: Some of those followers were present today, and they ignored appeals for decorum, breaking out in shouts and shouting santo subito, sanctity now – replica of the songs that celebrated the funeral of his predecessor, John Paul II. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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