Pope Francis has paid tribute to his predecessor, former Pope Benedict, the 16th, in a funeral at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
Francis started leading the mass, during which he gave a homily and Members of the crowd later took part in a Communion.
While delivering the homily, Francis said God’s faithful people gathered to bestow upon Benedict the wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon the church over the years.
Francis also referred to Benedict indirectly in paraphrases of other Biblical references to Jesus, including “love means being ready to suffer” and that the congregation was “commending our brother into the hands of the father”.
Also referring to Benedict during the Mass concelebrated by 125 cardinals, 200 bishops and about 3,700 priests, Francis spoke of “wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon us over the years”.
He mentioned Benedict by name only once, in the last line, saying: “Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom,(Jesus) may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!”
Clergy from around the world, a handful of heads of state and thousands of faithful attended the ceremony as the sun slowly broke through the fog.
More than 1,000 Italian security personnel were called up to help safeguard the event, and air space around the tiny Holy See has been closed off for the day. Italy ordered that flags around the country be flown at half staff.
Benedict, the first pontiff in almost 600 years to resign his position, rather than hold office for life, died aged 95 on December 31 at a monastery in Vatican City.
Dignitaries and religious leaders lined the square, which can seat approximately 60,000 people, for the ceremony.
Benedict’s coffin will then be transported through the Basilica and to the Vatican crypt for the burial, in the first tomb of John Paul the second.