VATICAN CITY, Jan 4 (Reuters) – The Vatican on Wednesday produced a surreal moment in which a living pope spoke to some faithful in one part of the small city-state while others paid respects to a dead former pontiff a few miles away. Were staying ,
Pope Francis holds his general audiences in a large modern hall, a regular event for Wednesdays.
“I would like us to join those here beside us in paying our respects to Benedict XVI,” Francis told several thousand people at the start of his audience.
Francis, 86, who will preside over Benedict’s funeral on Thursday, called his predecessor “a great master of education”.
Benedict, a towering theologian and hero to conservative Catholics, uncomfortable with Francis’ more progressive papacy, became the first pope in 600 years to resign rather than rule for life in 2013.
Around the same time as Francis was speaking and only several dozen meters (yards) away, the great doors of St Peter’s Basilica were being opened to the public for the third and final day of public viewings of Benedict’s body.
As of Tuesday night, some 135,000 people had filed past the former pope, who lay in state on a raised bier, without any papal regalia, in front of the basilica’s main altar.
The decision not to hold him during public appearances appears to have been taken to underscore that he was no longer pope when he died last Saturday at the age of 95.
The darshan is scheduled to end at 7 pm on Wednesday and shortly thereafter Benedict’s body will be placed in a coffin made of cypress wood.
He will be accompanied by coins and medals made during his eight years as pope and a sealed lead tube containing a document describing his pontificate in Latin – which is customary for papal funerals.
Also inside will be three palliums – bands of woolen cloth that popes, archdiocesan bishops and other bishops with territorial jurisdiction wear around their necks to signify their roles as shepherds of their flocks. The Pope is also the Bishop of Rome.
The coffin will be placed on the ground near the outer steps of St Peter’s Basilica and worshipers will recite the rosary before the funeral mass begins.
Benedict had left word that he wanted his funeral to be simple.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the liturgy for the Mass would be mostly based on that of the current pope, with some minor modifications.
Some prayers that are specific to the death of the pope will be omitted but there will be prayers for both Benedict and Francis, he said.
In a private service following the funeral, the cypress casket would be placed in a zinc casket and sealed and then the two would be placed in a second casket made of wood, as is tradition for the burial of a pope.
Benedict will be buried in the crypt under St Peter’s Basilica in accordance with his wishes at the same spot where Pope John Paul II was originally interred in 2005, before his body was moved to a chapel in the basilica in 2011 I went.
Reporting by Philip Pullela
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