POPE Francis bids farewell to his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at his funeral yesterday.
Pope Francis, 86, who arrived in a wheelchair and stood using a stick, paid tribute to the “wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon us over the years”.
During the service, Pope Francis did not mention Benedict by name in his homily until the final line.
Referring to Jesus as the “bridegroom” of the church, he said: “Benedict, faithful friend of the bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever.”
The pontiff used more than a dozen biblical references and Church writings in which he appeared to compare Benedict to Jesus, including his last words before he died on the cross: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
At the end of the service, the enormous coffin was carried back into St Peter’s Basilica to be buried in a crypt below the main floor with papal regalia.
Mourners started to pour into the square at 3am GMT – five and a half hours before the service for the German theologian.
Twelve pallbearers, who are lay attendants of the papal household, carried the coffin in and out of the basilica to the sound of applause and tolling bolls.
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The body of the Pope Emeritus was taken from the basilica and rested before the altar in the piazza as red-robed cardinals looked on, while Benedict’s longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, bent down and kissed a book of the Gospels that was left open on the coffin.
Brit Nicholas Palmer, 42, from Cardiff, Wales, travelled to witness the service.
The Catholic said: “It was very moving. The most moving experience of my life. I was very touched. It’s history in front of my eyes.”
Raymond Mainar, who travelled from a small village east of Munich for the funeral, said: “We came to pay homage to Benedict and wanted to be here today to say goodbye. He was a very good pope.”
And German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was among the dignitaries.
No UK royals were at the funeral but Education Secretary Gillian Keegan was sent as the country’s representative.