ROME and LONDON — Pope Francis is expected to honor his friend and retired predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, on Thursday by delivering a eulogy at his Vatican funeral, an unprecedented event in the modern Catholic Church.
Benedict, who died aged 95 on Saturday, stunned the faithful in 2013 when he became the first pope to step down in more than 600 years. His funeral will mark the first time a supreme pontiff has presided over the funeral of the previous pope, according to church scholars.
The funeral, which is due to begin at 9:30 a.m. local time, will be “roughly similar” to those held for pontiffs who died while still leading the church, Vatican spokesman Matteo told reporters on Wednesday. Burnished.
“The missing elements are most relevant for a reigning pontiff,” Bruni said, “such as the final supplications, the supplication of the Diocese of Rome and the Eastern Churches which are very specific to a sitting pope.”
Heads of state and Catholic dignitaries are expected, although the church has only offered official invitations to Italian and German officials. The Vatican informed foreign embassies that any other leader wishing to attend could do so, but only in a “private” capacity.
The United States will be represented by Joseph Donnelly, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, in accordance “with the wishes of the Vatican and the Pope Emeritus for a simple and solemn funeral,” officials said.
Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927, was elevated to the rank of pope at the age of 78 in 2005. He retired eight years later, citing declining health.
Thousands of worshipers flocked to St. Peter’s Basilica this week, where the retired pontiff’s remains were displayed in red vestments. Members of the Swiss Guard flanked Benedict, standing just outside the red velvet ropes surrounding his remains.
A steady stream of mourners poured into the church. Many lined up for hours to pay their last respects. More than 65,000 people are said to have filed into the basilica on Monday alone.
The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica have not rung since Saturday, the day Benedict XVI died, Vatican officials have confirmed. Tolls are usually rung for the death of a seated pope.
The remains of Benedict XVI will be placed in a triple coffin on Wednesday – lined with cypress, zinc and wood – and brought the next morning around 8:50 a.m. to St. Peter’s Square, where the funeral will take place.
Francis, in the days before and after Benedict’s death, asked the faithful in the church to pray for him. The two popes would have been friends after the resignation of Benedict XVI.
A Vatican press office official told reporters on Sunday that Francis was “the first” to arrive at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, where Benedict lived within Vatican walls, on Saturday after hearing the news of Benedict’s death. Bruni said the pontiff then stayed at the monastery for a time of prayer.
Francis on New Year’s Day asked subscribers to invoke “the intercession of Mary the Most Holy for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI”.
The pontiff added, “Let us all unite, with one heart and one soul, to thank God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the Church.”
Benedict XVI’s remains will be buried immediately after Thursday’s funeral, Vatican officials have announced.
“Additionally,” Bruni said, “the coffin will also contain the ‘rogito,’ a written text describing the pontificate which is placed in a metal cylinder inside the coffin.
He will be buried in St. Peter’s Crypt, where more than 90 popes have found their final resting place.