On Thursday, thousands of people attended the funeral mass for the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger, died on December 31 at the age of 95. He spent most of his life upholding church doctrine and is considered one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. He is also the first pope in six centuries to retire from the papacy.
His successor, Pope Francis, led Thursday’s funeral.
According to CBN News,12 white-gloved pallbearers carried Benedict’s cypress coffin out of St. Peter’s Basilica and laid it upon the altar. Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, Benedict’s longtime secretary, stooped down and kissed a book of the Gospels left open on the casket.
After the funeral, the pallbearers carried the coffin back into St. Peter’s Basilica for interment in a crypt under the main floor.
Those in attendance included Heads of state, royalty, clergy, and civilians from around the world. Some attendees came from Benedict’s native of Bavaria in Germany.
“We came to pay homage to Benedict and wanted to be here today to say goodbye,” a traveler named Raymond Mainar from a small village east of Munich told reporters. “He was a very good pope.”
Matteo Colonna, a 20-year-old seminarian from Teramo, Italy, said he attended the funeral because of its historic nature and his personal significance.
“The first spark of my vocation started under the pontificate of Benedict, but then it became even stronger under Pope Francis,” Colonna said. “I see a continuity between these two popes, and the fact that today Francis is celebrating the funeral in Benedict’s memory is a historical event.”
The official history of Benedict’s life – released by the Vatican on Thursday – was secured inside a metal cylinder and placed in the coffin before it was sealed. Coins and medallions minted during his papacy, and his pallium stoles were also placed in the casket.
The document – called the “rogito” or deed – highlighted the late pope’s historic resignation in 2013 and referred to him as “pope emeritus.” Benedict’s theological and papal legacy, including his outreach to Anglicans and Jews and his attempts to tackle clergy sexual abuse by “continually calling the church to conversion, prayer, penance and purification,” was also referenced in the document.
About 200,000 people reportedly paid tribute to Benedict during three days of public viewing at the basilica.