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Benedict’s funeral ends 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 newly elected Pope Francis, on the loggia at St. Peter’s Basilica, offered a prayer for his still-living predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

It culminated Saturday, almost a decade later, when Benedict died in a monastery in the Vatican: Francis was the first to rush to see the body, a spokesman for the Holy See told The Washington Post.

But the delicate dance between the two popes – one current, one former – is not yet over, at least not completely. That’s because Francis, in the final act of a relationship that was outwardly warm but often uncomfortable, will be the one to chart the period of remembrance and mourning.

On Thursday he will preside Benedict’s funeral.

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

This precedent-setting week will be watched to see how far Benedict is given the passages that would normally be granted to a sitting pope. Initial indications are that his funeral will be less lavish than the mass ceremony for John Paul II in 2005. In that case, the Vatican said only two official delegations would attend, from Italy and from Benedict’s native Germany. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the funeral would be “simple”.

Also crucial is how Francis – for the first time in his pontificate, the only Vatican figure wearing white – will speak about his predecessor. So far, in his prayers on Saturday night and on Sunday, he has addressed Benedict’s death only in passing, calling him “noble” and “kind.” Otherwise, Francis continued normally with the New Year’s celebrations in 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 that the pope would deal this week with “diplomacy” and look for ways to show the common ground between himself and Benedict.

“This is a way for him to neutralize the enemies of his papacy,” Politi said.

How Benedict’s death could change the Catholic Church

Politi said that in the church “there is a sense of relief because this silent contrast between two figures and two visions of the church is now over.”

Benedict broke with a centuries-old tradition of popes serving until their deaths, and the need to coexist with his predecessor has been a defining aspect of Francis’ tenure, coinciding with a period of growing polarization in the faith.

For traditionalists, Benedict became a symbol of the opposition. Conservative figures in the church will seek audiences with him. Far-right politicians would cite him – or John Paul II – instead of Francis.

The intrigue surrounding their relationship is so strong that it even inspired a movie,”The two popes,” which envisioned the two sparring verbally and ultimately enjoying each other in the run-up to Benedict’s abdication.

In real life, Benedict has shown respect for Francis and said there is only one authority figure at the top. Francis, in turn, regularly extols Benedict’s spirit and “intellectual insight.” After induction ceremonies for new cardinals, Francis usually led them to greet Benedict, who lived in a monastery hidden behind St. Peter’s Basilica.

What The Two Popes Miss About Francis and Benedict’s Relationship

But sometimes it proved treacherous to have a retired pope — especially one who lived so close to Francis and who chose to continue wearing white. Benedict did not fully keep his promise to remain “hidden from the world,” causing turmoil 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 contradicts Francis’ own theories about root causes.

Former Pope Benedict contradicts Pope Francis in unusual intervention on sexual abuse

A year later, Benedict proposed a defense of clerical celibacy, just as Francis was considering a move to allow the ordination of married men in the Amazon to make up for a dire shortage of priests. Benedict later said that there had been “misunderstanding” with the co-author of the book in which his notes appeared. Some church observers have speculated that the former pope risks being manipulated as he grows weaker.

Often the positions of Benedict and Francis were not so far apart; both have upheld the Church’s teaching on sexuality, for example. But their philosophical differences were so pronounced that they seemed to be polar opposites. Benedict, as pope, is focused on maintaining the eternal teachings of the faith, even if it means a smaller church of fervent believers. Francis, by contrast, has traveled to countries with a small Catholic presence, emphasized dialogue with Islam and harnessed issues such as climate change and migration — areas traditionalists say have little to do with faith.

Pope Benedict, in retired seclusion, has emerged as the opposition to Pope Francis

Although popes are always compared to their predecessors, it was completely new to have two living men of experience as the supreme moral and spiritual authority of religion.

Even in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday, in the hours after Benedict’s death, people spoke of him in contrast to Francis.

Andrea Versace, 23, who is visiting Rome from the northern Veneto region, described Benedict as “cold and distant” in contrast to Francis, who she saw as “more modest”.

Benedict’s death will have ripple effects for Francis. Some church watchers hope he is drawing up formal rules to guide the retirement of any future pontiff – potentially requiring him to live outside the Vatican and revert to his own name. Such rules would have been inconvenient to create when Pope Benedict was still alive.

In past interviews, Francis has said he views Benedict’s resignation as a precedent — something he would also consider doing if his health falters. For now, Francis has pain in his knee and struggles to walk. But he maintains a busy schedule.

Is the end of Pope Francis’ pontificate near?

Francis, for his part, said he would be known as the honorary bishop of Rome if he stepped down. He said he “certainly will not stay” in the Vatican.

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

“But for the future,” Francis said, “it is appropriate to explain things better.”


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