Pope Benedict XVI was laid to rest Thursday in Vatican City. For the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, a reigning Pope, Francis, presided over the funeral of Benedict, his predecessor with whom he shared the title for the past decade.
Pope Benedict passed away on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95. He was the first pope in 600 years to resign from his position. Since stepping down as the head of the Catholic church and sovereign of Vatican City in February 2013, he retained the title of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the white garb for his retirement in a Vatican monastery.
Therefore, his funeral was carried out under the same guidelines as an active Pope, as mentioned in the “Funeral Rites of the Roman Pontiff,” Royal Central reported.
Pope Emeritus’s historic funeral was a mix of ancient rituals and new precedents. “In Benedict’s case there is no vacant seat, which is why all the cardinals are not necessarily summoned to Rome,” Spanish Vatican member José Manuel Vidal told EuroNews. “There is no meeting of cardinals, there is no conclave and, therefore, the one presiding over the funeral is the reigning Pope.”
Pope Francis paid tribute to Pope Emeritus, and at the end of the ceremony, he placed his hand on the casket as a final goodbye.
The burial of Benedict under St Peter’s Basilica followed the ritual of the three coffins. Under this tradition, the first was a cypress wood coffin that carried a copy of the funeral mass and bags of gold, silver, and copper coins. Each of the bags carried coins matching the number of years that Benedict was Pope. The cypress wood symbolizes humility and highlights the fact that the Pope was a regular person.
The coffin was then put into another casket made of zinc. This coffin included a copy of documents he issued as head of the papal church, carrying his papal seal. It was then soldered shut with his name, dates of the papacy, and a skull with crossbones engraved on top.
While some reports suggested the third and final outer coffin was made of oak, Royal Central stated it was made of elm wood, which is significantly rare in Rome. Elm is used for symbolizing dignity.
Meanwhile, after the three coffins were sealed, two violet silk robes are wrapped around them, along with the chamberlain and the Cardinal Dean’s coats of arms.