Final farewell to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: Eyewitness News in Vatican City

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Thursday, January 5, 2023
Benedict XVI laid to rest in funeral celebrated by Pope Francis
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With bells tolling, thousands of faithful, political leaders and the pope himself mourned Benedict XVI. Mike Marza is in Vatican City with more on the ceremony.

VATICAN CITY (WABC) -- Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the shy German theologian who tried to reawaken Christianity in a secularized Europe but will forever be remembered as the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from the job, died Saturday, the last day of 2022. He was 95.

Eyewitness News reporter Mike Marza is in Vatican City as the world says farewell to Benedict XVI. See his live reports on Eyewitness News.

Thursday, January 5

On the morning of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's funeral, Saint Peter's Basilica was shrouded in fog.

The faithful applauded as pallbearers carried Benedict's cypress coffin out of the Saint Peter's Basilica and rested it before the altar.

Heads of state and royalty, clergy from around the world and thousands of regular people were in attendance.

Benedict's successor Pope Francis led the ceremony of the funeral mass. It was the first time since the early 1800s that a pope's successor led their predecessor's funeral.

Tourists walked around the outside of the barriers taking pictures of this historical funeral.

Only Italy and Germany were invited to send official delegations, but the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Joe Donnelly was there. Archbishop of New York Timothy Cardinal Dolan was also in attendance. .

"One of the things we're grateful for is his towering intellectual legacy. It is radiant. Well, we still got his books, we still got his writings," Timothy Cardinal Dolan said of the late pope.

Benedict's nearly eight-year reign was shadowed by the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church.

He addressed it in the official biographical text that will be buried with him.

"He firmly fought against crimes committed by representatives of the clergy against minors or vulnerable people," the text reads.

Wednesday, January 4

The former pope is lying in state for a third and final day at the Altar of Confession inside St. Peter's Basilica.

Benedict wanted a simple solemn service, so only the official delegations from Italy and Benedict's native Germany have been invited to Thursday's funeral, although other dignitaries are expected.

600 media accreditations have been issued from outlets around the world.

Mourners and tourists started lining up again Wednesday morning, including one man from Dallas who brought his daughters, for a journey that was part pilgrimage and part history lesson.

"I think it's important to understand who we are and why we exist - and why it's so important to embrace these types of moments," said Jason Jacob.

At his weekly general audience, Pope Francis offered prayers for Benedict.

It came hours before the pontiff will preside over his predecessor's funeral mass in St. Peter's Square, where final preparations are well underway.

Tonight, after the public viewing hours have ended, Benedict's coffin will be closed for a private rite.

Tomorrow morning the former pope will be brought out to the square, where the faithful can recite the rosary before the funeral mass.

Tuesday, January 3

On Tuesday, security was getting tighter to handle the crowds, with extra police and extra firefighting personnel arriving at a command post ahead of Thursday's funeral.

"To actually witness it in the grand scale - everything at the Vatican is 'grand scale' - to see it in in person is larger than life," said Autumn Sherriff, who is visiting from Florida.

People started lining up 90 minutes before the gates even opened Tuesday morning, with the line snaking around the Vatican for a second day to say a final goodbye to the first pontiff to retire in modern times. His legacy was defined by dichotomy.

Benedict was a hardline conservative, who was once a Hitler youth and then became only the second pope to visit a synagogue.

He was heavily criticized and accused for not doing enough to handle the sex abuse scandal that rocked the church. However, he was the first pope to meet with victims and set up a division to try to find predators.

Twelve hours of viewing were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday before Thursday morning's funeral, which will be led by Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square.

Eyewitness News reporter Mike Marza learned that the late former pontiff will be celebrated with a mass similar to that of a supreme pontiff.

The service is set to begin at 3:30 a.m. Eastern Time Thursday. He will be buried immediately following the service.

Monday, January 2

Tens of thousands of Catholics have traveled to Rome to pay their final respects to former pontiff, including New York's Timothy Cardinal Dolan, who departed from JFK Airport on Sunday.

The river of mourners started flowing through the Vatican on Monday, the first day of the viewing. It eventually swelled to 65,0000, as the faithful passed by the former pope's body.

Eyewitness News spoke with Timothy Cardinal Dolan, who visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major, saying a private prayer for Benedict.

"For me, coming to Rome, where I spent 11 years, I always think of Rome like family," the cardinal said. "And for us there's been a death in the family: Pope Emeritus Benedict. He was our holy father."


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