Benedict, who passed away on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95, shocked the Catholic church when he retired in 2013, becoming the first pontiff to do so in 600 years. That decision will shape his legacy, as will the sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the church in recent years.
In 2013 he ceded the papacy to Francis, who is widely seen as a more reformist leader, and spent his twilight years living at the Vatican in a refurbished monastery.
Because Benedict was no longer a head of state when he died, only two countries, Italy and his native Germany, sent official delegations to the funeral. But other world leaders and royals attended in a private capacity.
Heavy security measures have been enforced in the Holy See to ensure the event’s safety, with over 1,000 Italian security personnel deployed and its air space closed for the day.
Among prominent clergymen attending the funeral were Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, his secretary said. Zen, a retired 90-year-old bishop, has been sharply at odds with Francis over the Vatican’s agreement with Chinese authorities on the appointment of bishops.
Almost 200,000 people have paid their respects to the pope’s body as it laid in state at St. Peter’s Basilica from Monday until Wednesday evening.
The pope’s body was placed in a plain wood coffin in preparation for the funeral. After the funeral ceremony, the coffin will be taken back inside the basilica and encased in zinc before being sealed in a second wooden casket.
At his request, Benedict will be buried in the underground Vatican grottoes in the niche where first Pope John XXIII and then John Paul II were interred before their remains were transferred to more prominent places in the basilica above.
A written account of the pope’s life will be buried with him in his coffin, the Vatican announced. The document cited his theological and papal legacy, including his outreach to Anglicans and Jews and his efforts to combat clergy sexual abuse “continually calling the church to conversion, prayer, penance and purification.”