Pope Francis addresses the faithful the day after the death of his predecessor Benedict

Pope Francis addresses the faithful the day after the death of his predecessor Benedict

Pope Francis addresses the faithful the day after the death of his predecessor Benedict

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Vatican (AFP) – Pope Francis delivers a speech to the Catholic Church at the Vatican on Sunday, a day after the death of his predecessor Pope Benedict at the age of 95.

On Saturday, the pope hailed the “great nobility” that distinguished the pope emeritus, who died nearly a decade after resigning in 2013, becoming the first pope to resign from his pontificate in six centuries.

On Sunday, Pope Francis will lead an International Day of Peace prayer in St. Peter’s Basilica before leading the evangelization prayer and speaking to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square at 11:00 GMT.

Preparations have begun for the late pope’s funeral ceremony, which Pope Francis will preside over at the cathedral on Thursday morning.

The body of the deceased will lie in bed for three days before burial to allow the faithful to say farewell to the Pope, who has sparked controversy among Catholics with his outspoken defense of traditional values.

The Vatican said Benedict’s funeral would be “formal but simple” and he would then be buried in one of the catacombs of St. Peter’s Basilica.

– Two men in papal white –

Praise came from around the world on Saturday for a brilliant theologian who struggled to impose his authority on a church grappling with a series of crises, including the clergyman sex abuse scandal.

US Catholic President Joe Biden praised the pope’s “dedication to the Church,” while Russian President Vladimir Putin called the pope a “defender of traditional Christian values.”

The death of the pope emeritus put an end to the unusual coexistence of two men in papal white robes, Benedict and Francis, in the small country.

A photo released by the Vatican on February 15, 2018, of Pope Francis (left) greeting his predecessor Benedict on June 28, 2017.
A photo released by the Vatican on February 15, 2018, of Pope Francis (left) greeting his predecessor Benedict on June 28, 2017. © / L’Osservatore Romano/AFP/Archive

Pope Benedict’s health was deteriorating some time ago and he had almost completely retired from public life by the time Pope Francis announced that his condition had deteriorated.

And he died Saturday morning at the Convent of the Mother of the Church in the Vatican, where he had lived since announcing his resignation in 2013, indicating a decline in his mental and health abilities.

At a devotional service at the end of the year on Saturday evening, Francis paid tribute to his “dear” predecessor and remembered his “noble and kind person”.

Last year, Francis raised the possibility of stepping down if he were unable to complete his duties.

– “Guardians of the Faith” –

Benedikt was born on April 16, 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria. At the age of 78 he became the first pope of German origin in modern times.

On Saturday, flags were flown at half-mast at Martel town hall, where a special mass was held at the church where he was baptized.

One of the parents, Karl Michael Nock, 55, said his death “may have been a redemption,” praising the late pope for stepping down and defending his record.

And Benedict, a longtime confidant of John Paul II and a high-ranking cardinal in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, was the front runner to become pope in 2005. But he later said that “the feeling I had: the guillotine”.

A picture of Pope Benedict at a church in Marktel am Inn, his hometown in southern Germany, on December 31, 2022.
A picture of Pope Benedict at a church in Marktel am Inn, his hometown in southern Germany, on December 31, 2022. © Kirsten Joenson/AP

Unlike his predecessor Francis the Jesuit, who liked to mingle with his parishioners, Benedict was a conservative intellectual who became President of the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith in Rome until his election in 2005.

And he worked strenuously to stem a series of scandals experienced by the church during his pontificate, not least the scandal of child sexual abuse by clergy.

Conservative flag bearer

The sexual abuse scandal has haunted the German pope in recent months after he was accused in a press report in Germany in January 2022 of having been sexually abused as archbishop of Munich in the 1980s.

He broke his silence to ask for “forgiveness” but stressed that he had never covered up child abuse and had met a number of victims.

His comments have repeatedly sparked controversy, ranging from those that incited Muslims around the world to the money laundering scandal, to the scandal in 2012 when his personal assistant leaked confidential documents to the Vatican in the so-called “Vatelex”.

People will remember him theologically, “but he didn’t have the moral personality that is necessary for the pope,” said Marco Politi, an expert on Italian Vatican affairs.

After his resignation, however, Benedict remained the standard-bearer of the conservative wing of the church.

Politi told AFP that with Benedict’s death, those who fought for a more liberal view of Francis will lose a “living symbol”.


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