Pope Benedict XVI death: who will attend his funeral at Vatican City? Will world leaders be in attendance

The Pope erimus died on New Year’s Eve

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The former Pope Benedict XVI will be laid to rest at Vatican City this week.

The German theologian died at the age of 95 on Saturday (31 January). His funeral will take place on Thursday (5 January), with his successor Pope Francis saying Mass at St Peter’s Square.

Benedict XVI, who made history as the first Pope to resign from the position since Gregory XII in 1415 when he quit in 2013, will be buried in the tombs under St Peter’s Basilica. He will be lying in state at the cathedral from Monday (2 January) until Wednesday (4 January) and thousands of worshippers are expect to visit him.

The Vatican has announced that the funeral will be a simple one, in keeping with the wishes of Benedict, who for decades as a German cardinal had served as the Church’s guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy before he was elected pope in 2005.

Here is all you need to know:

When and where is Pope Benedict’s funeral?

The Pope erimus, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in Germany in 1927, will be laid to rest after a funeral service on Thursday. The service will be held in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City from 8.30am GMT (9.30am local time).

On Sunday (1 January), Benedict’s body lay on a burgundy-coloured bier in the chapel of the monastery where he lived out his final years. He was dressed in a mitre, the headgear of a bishop, and a red cloak-like vestment. A rosary was placed in his hand.

His body will be taken to St Peter’s Basilica to lie in state on Monday, with the public being able to view him and pay their respects. Pope Benedict will then be laid to rest in the tombs under the cathedral following the funeral service, it is the site where more than 90 other popes have been burried.

Pope Benedict XVI. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)Pope Benedict XVI. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Benedict XVI. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Who will attend Pope Benedict’s funeral?

The funeral will be a simple one, per the requests of Benedict XVI. Traditionally the funeral for a pope would be a major event attended by world leaders and dignitaries.

However Reuters reports that the only official delegations will be from neighbouring Italy and Benedict’s native Germany will be attending the funeral, in keeping with the low key nature of the event. The report adds that diplomats have been told they can attend the service in a private capacity. MailOnline reports that a delegation from Ireland will also attend the funeral on Thursday.

King Philippe and Queen Mathlide of Belgium, Queen Sofia of Spain, Prince Stefan of Liechtenstein, will also attend.

How many are expected to attend the funeral?

Mourners have poured into St Peter’s Square for the funeral of Benedict XVI.They are there to pay their final respects to the German theologian, who made history by retiring, and to attend a rare requiem Mass for a dead pontiff presided over by a living one.

Bells tolled and the crowd applauded on Thursday (5 January) morning as pallbearers carried Benedict’s cypress coffin out of the basilica and rested it before the altar in the piazza as red-robed cardinals looked on. Authorities have estimated some 100,000 will attend the funeral, higher than an original estimate of 60,000, Italian media reported, citing police security plans.

Some 200,000 paid tribute to Benedict during three days of public viewing in the basilica, with one of the last, Friar Rosario Vitale, spending an hour praying by his body.

What to expect from the funeral?

The funeral ritual itself is modelled on the code used for dead popes but with some modifications – given Benedict was not a reigning pontiff when he died. After the Mass, Benedict’s cypress coffin will be placed inside a zinc one, then an outer oak casket, before being entombed in the crypt in the grottos underneath St Peter’s Basilica that once held the tomb of St John Paul II before it was moved upstairs.

While the ritual is novel, it does have some precedent; in 1802, Pope Pius VII presided over the funeral in St Peter’s of his predecessor, Pius VI, who died in exile in France in 1799 as a prisoner of Napoleon.

What has Pope Francis said about the death?

In his first public comment following Benedict’s death Pope Francis praised his kindness and faith. Francis thanked Benedict on Saturday (31 December) for “his testimony of faith and prayer, especially in these final years of retired life”.

Speaking during a New Year’s Eve vigil, Francis said only God knew “of his sacrifices offered for the good of the church”. During his homily at the Vespers service in St Peter’s Basilica, Francis said “thoughts go spontaneously to the very dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who this morning left us”.

“With deep feeling, we recall his person, so noble, so gentle,” Francis said. “And we feel in the heart so much gratitude: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world. Gratitude to him, for all the good he did, and above all for his witness of faith and of prayer, especially in these last years of withdrawn life.

“Only God knows the value and the strength of his intercession, of his sacrifices offered for the good of the Church.”

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