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Gerard O’ConnellDecember 31, 2022
Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI at the retired pontiff's Vatican residence on Dec. 23, 2013. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis will preside at the solemn requiem Mass for Benedict XVI in St Peter’s Square on the morning of Jan. 5, the Vatican announced today.

Vatican press officer Matteo Bruni noted that “in accordance with the wishes of the emeritus pope, the funeral will be conducted in a mark of simplicity.”

Vatican press officer Matteo Bruni noted that “in accordance with the wishes of the emeritus pope, the funeral will be conducted in a mark of simplicity."

The former pope died at 9.34 a.m. Rome time on Dec. 31, the Vatican announced earlier today. He was 95 years old and had been very ill for some days. Mr. Bruni announced Benedict’s death in a statement sent to journalists accredited to the Holy See that said: “With sorrow I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, passed away today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican.”

Mr. Bruni revealed that Benedict XVI was given the sacrament of the anointing of the sick after the Mass celebrated in his room last Wednesday afternoon, at which he participated.

Benedict’s body will be placed in St. Peter’s Basilica from Monday, Jan. 2, so that the faithful can pay their final respects to him. Vatican security has already cordoned off the area from St. Peter’s Square to the bottom of the Via della Conciliazione thoroughfare and are putting up barricades in advance of his body resting in state.

The first pope to freely decide to resign from office in the past 600 years, Benedict opened a new chapter in the history of the papacy. His resignation in 2013 made it possible for future popes to resign if they should find their mental or physical health is failing or the burden of office is too much for them.

He was pope for less than eight years. Elected on April 19, 2005, he announced his resignation on Feb. 11, 2013, with it taking effect at 8.00 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2013. Benedict was emeritus pope for almost 10 years, a period longer than he was pope.

Bishops’ conferences from around the world are issuing statements on his death, as are cardinals that knew him. Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, S.D.B., the president of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, said, “Benedict XVI will long be remembered fondly in Australia as the pontiff who led young people from around the globe in prayer at World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008.” His papacy, Archbishop Costelloe said, “will be remembered as one of rich teaching, including his encyclicals on love, hope and truth, as well as his book series [on] Jesus of Nazareth, and for reforms in areas like liturgy and in the handling of child sexual abuse.” Archbishop Costelloe said parishes around the country will hold special memorial Masses for the emeritus pope.

Benedict’s body will be placed in St. Peter’s Basilica from Monday, Jan. 2, so that the faithful can pay their final respects to him.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, said in a statement: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Pope Benedict. He will be remembered as one of the great theologians of the 20th century. I remember with particular affection the remarkable Papal Visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.”

“He was through and through a gentleman, through and through a scholar, through and through a pastor, through and through a man of God,” Cardinal Nichols wrote, “close to the Lord and always his humble servant. Pope Benedict is very much in my heart and in my prayers. I give thanks to God for his ministry and leadership.” He said the Catholic bishops of England and Wales will celebrate requiem Masses for the repose of the soul of the late pope emeritus in their cathedrals.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said he was “saddened to hear of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. At this time of mourning in the Catholic Church throughout the world, we remember his gentle soul in prayer, asking God, in His great mercy, to forgive his sins and human failings, while rewarding his generous service and complete dedication to the Gospel and to the Church. On behalf of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, and the faithful across Ireland, I extend sympathy to Pope Francis, to the family members and carers of the Pope Emeritus, and to all those in his native Germany and around the globe who loved him and will mourn his loss.”

Cardinal Thomas Collins: "Pope Emeritus Benedict offered each one of us a personal example of fidelity and of what it is to be a devoted disciple of Jesus."

Archbishop Martin said he was struck by Benedict’s “characteristic humility and gentleness” when he first met him in 2009 while visiting the Vatican as the executive secretary to the Irish bishops. He recalled that after meeting the Irish bishops in Rome in February 2010, Benedict “issued a unique Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland expressing profound sorrow for those grievously wounded by abuse in the Church” and “called for urgent action to address the legacy of abuse which, he said, has had ‘such tragic consequences in the lives of victims and their families’, and which has ‘obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.’”

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, noted that Benedict, the last pope to attend the Second Vatican Council, “served as a bridge to the future, reminding us all that the reform and renewal of the Church is ongoing. Resigning in 2013, the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI taught us that belief in God means completely placing our trust in Divine Providence. Today we pray as Pope Francis did earlier this year, ‘May St. Joseph help us to live the mystery of death in the best possible way. For a Christian, the good death is an experience of the mercy of God, who comes close to us even in that last moment of our life.’

Lord, let your perpetual light shine on your servant Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, and may he rest in peace.”

Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, issued a statement saying that “[t]hroughout the Archdiocese of Toronto, we join in mourning the loss of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. We give thanks for his years of faithful, thoughtful and inspiring service to the Church.”

Both as a priest for more than 70 years and in his time as bishop and pope, “Pope Emeritus Benedict offered each one of us a personal example of fidelity and of what it is to be a devoted disciple of Jesus,” Cardinal Collins wrote:

As a theologian, he followed in the footsteps of the great St. Augustine, in offering to us profound insight into the mysteries of our Christian faith, insight arising by God’s grace not only from his astonishing intellect and learning, but also from his personal holiness and pastoral care for God’s people; his writings will help guide disciples of Jesus in the centuries that lie before us. As pope, he led the universal church with wisdom and holiness, providing a clear and loving message of how our faith can inspire us and guide us through the storms of life’s journey. More than ever, his own witness, humility and invitation to put others before ourselves should resonate throughout the world. We pray for the repose of his soul. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord and may perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

[More on Pope Benedict:

Pope Benedict XVI, defender of orthodoxy defined by historic resignation, dies at 95

Pope Benedict’s theological legacy: An Augustinian at heart who influenced the course of Vatican II and beyond

Pope Benedict XVI’s devotion to the Eucharist: A key to understanding his life and theology]

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