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The funeral of Benedict XVI to close the era of the "two popes"

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VATICAN CITY – One of the most unusual chapters in modern Catholic history began on March 13, 2013, when a newly elected Pope Francis appeared on the loggia of St. St. Peter’s, offered a prayer for his living predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

It peaked on Saturday, nearly a decade later, when benedict is dead At a monastery inside the Vatican: Francis was the first to rush to view the body, a Holy See spokesperson told The Washington Post.

But the delicate dance between the two popes – one current, one former – isn’t over yet, at least not entirely. This is because Francis, in the final act of a seemingly warm but often awkward relationship, will be the one to frame the period of remembrance and mourning.

Thursday, he will chair Benedict’s funeral.

What will Pope Benedict’s funeral be like? Pope Francis will preside.

This unprecedented week will be watched to see how well Benedict receives the passages that would normally be given to a seated pope. Early indications suggest his funeral will be less pompous than the 2005 mass ceremony for John Paul II. In this case, the Vatican said only two official delegations would be present, from Italy and Benedict XVI’s native Germany. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the funeral would be “simple”.

It is also crucial how Francis – for the first time in his pontificate, the only Vatican figure dressed in white – will talk about his predecessor. So far in Saturday evening and Sunday prayers, he has only touched on Benedict’s death in passing, calling him “noble” and “kind.” Francis also proceeded normally with the New Year festivities at the Vatican. On Saturday, in a wheelchair, he waved to adoring supporters as he was pushed through St. Peter’s Square.

Marco Politi, a biographer of Francis, predicted the pope would handle this week with “diplomacy” and look for ways to show the common ground between him and Benedict.

“It’s a way for him to neutralize the enemies of his papacy,” Politi said.

How Benedict’s death could reshape the Catholic Church

Politi said that within the church, “there is a sense of relief, as this silent contrast between two characters and two visions of the church is now over.”

Benedict broke centuries of tradition in which popes were served until death, and the need to coexist with his predecessor was a defining aspect of Francis’ tenure, coinciding with a period of growing polarization within the faith. .

For traditionalists, Benedict has become a symbol of opposition. Conservative church figures would seek audiences with him. Far-right politicians would quote him – or John Paul II – instead of Francis.

The intrigue about their relationship was so intense that it even inspired a movie.The two popes”, which imagined the two verbally confronting, and ultimately having fun, in a period before the abdication of Benedict XVI.

In real life, Benedict showed deference to Francis and said there was only one authority figure at the top. Francis, in turn, regularly extolled the wit and “intellectual acumen” of Benedict XVI. After enthronement ceremonies for new cardinals, Francis regularly led them to greet Benedict, who lived in a monastery tucked away behind St. Peter’s Church. Saint Peter’s basilica.

What ‘The Two Popes’ Misses in the Relationship Between Francis and Benedict

But it sometimes proved treacherous to have a retired pope – especially one who lived so close to Francis and chose to continue to dress in white. Benedict did not fully live up to his promise to remain “hidden from the world”, causing maelstroms when he interfered in church affairs.

In 2019, he wrote a long letter about sexual abuselinking some of the church’s problems to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, a diagnosis that conflicted with Francis’ own theories of root causes.

Ex-Pope Benedict contradicts Pope Francis in unusual intervention on sexual abuse

A year later, Benoît offered a defense of clerical celibacy, just as Francis was considering allowing the ordination of married men in the Amazon to make up for a severe shortage of priests. Benoît said later that there had been amisunderstandingwith the co-author of the book in which his remarks had appeared. Some church watchers speculated that the ex-pope was at risk of being manipulated as he grew more fragile.

Often the positions of Benedict and Francis were not so far apart; Both supported church teaching on sexuality, for example. But their philosophical differences were so pronounced that they seemed to represent opposite poles. Benedict, as pope, focused on upholding the eternal teachings of the faith, even if that meant a small church of ardent believers. Francis, on the other hand, traveled to countries with weak Catholic presence, emphasized dialogue with Islam, and exploited issues such as climate change and migration – areas that traditionalists say , have little to do with faith.

Pope Benedict XVI, in retirement isolation, looms in opposition to Pope Francis

While popes are always compared to their predecessors, it was quite new to have two living men with experience as the highest moral and spiritual authority in religion.

Even at St. Place Saint-Pierre on Saturday, in the hours following Benoît’s death, people were talking about him unlike François.

Andrea Versace, 23, visiting Rome from the northern Veneto region, described Benedict as “cold and detached”, as opposed to Francis, whom she considers “more humble”.

Benoît’s death will have repercussions on François. Some church watchers hope he will establish formal rules that will guide the retirement of any future pontiff – potentially requiring him to live outside the Vatican and revert to his first name. Such rules would have been difficult to create when Pope Benedict was still alive.

Francis, in earlier interviews, said he viewed Benedict’s resignation as a precedent – something he would also consider doing if his health deteriorated. for the moment, Francois has knee pain and has difficulty walking. But he keeps a busy schedule.

Is Pope Francis nearing the end of his pontificate?

Francis, for his part, said he would be known as the bishop emeritus of Rome if he steps down. He said he would “surely not” stay in the Vatican.

In an interview last year with two Mexican journalists, Francis said that the first experience with a sitting pope and an ex-pope “went rather well” because Benedict was “a holy and discreet man, and he knew how to do it.” ”

“But for the future,” Francis said, “it’s worth explaining things better.”

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