Pope Francis presides over funeral for Benedict XVI: 'May your joy be complete'

Pope Francis places his hand on the casket carrying the body of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City on Thursday. Francis presided over his predecessor's funeral mass. Photo by Vatican Pool | License Photo

Jan. 5 (UPI) -- About 50,000 people attended the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Thursday at St. Peter's Square as Pope Francis paid tribute to his predecessor.

It marked the first occasion in modern times in which a pope presided over the funeral of the pope who served before him. Benedict, 95, who died on Dec. 31, became the first pope in 600 years to retire in 2013.


"God's faithful people, gathered here, now accompanies and entrusts to him the life of the one who was their pastor," Francis said during the homily. "Like the women at the tomb, we too have come with the fragrance of gratitude and the balm of hope, in order to show him once more the love that is undying.

"Benedict, faithful friend of the bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever."

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Francis was brought out onto the dais in a wheelchair as he prayed for Benedict's soul The service was attended by clergy from around the world. Cardinals were dressed in red vestments, while nuns and monks wore their dark robes.


Incense was waved over the coffin at the end of the service, as a choir sang.

Francis closed the service with a prayer.

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"Dear brothers and sisters, in celebrating the sacred mysteries, we have opened our minds and hearts to joy-filled hope; with confidence, we now offer our final farewell to Pope Emeritus Benedict and commend him to God, our merciful and loving Father."

Benedict will be buried in a crypt beneath St. Peter's Basilica, which houses the tombs of more than 90 other popes.

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