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Over 50,000 mourners pay last respect to Pope Benedict XVI

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About 50,000 people from across the world on Thursday attended the funeral of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square.

According to Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni, many of the sympathisers called for the late pope to be consecrated a saint.

The event was presided over by the current head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, marking the first occasion in modern times that a pontiff had presided over the funeral of his predecessor.

It is also on record that Pope Benedict was the first pontiff in almost 600 years to resign his position.

Pope Benedict, rather than hold office for life, resigned voluntarily from Petrine ministry in 2013.

The funeral was an occasion characterized by simplicity, as per the wish of the former pope. “It’s difficult to have a simple service in St. Peter’s Square, but I think it was,” Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, writer and editor, told CNN’s Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo on CNN Newsroom.

It was in sharp contrast to an estimated 1.1 million people for the funeral of Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II. There were 500,000 people in St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding area in 2005, and another 600,000 watched on video screens in other parts of Rome

According to CNN, Pope John Paul II’s funeral was the largest gathering of heads of state ever outside the United Nations. Delegations included nine monarchs along with 70 presidents and prime ministers.

It reported that the ceremony was similar to that of a reigning pope but with some modifications. Benedict was named pope emeritus during the funeral, and the language of some prayers was different because he was not the reigning pope when he died.

The reigning Pope Francis started leading the mass Thursday morning and gave a homily at about 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET). Members of the crowd later took part in a Communion, the news medium reported.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died at 9:34 am in his residence at the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, Vatican City on Saturday, December 31, 2022, at the of age 95.

He was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger on 16 April 1927 in Markt, Germany.

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