Benedict XVI’s funeral: Only 2 countries will send official delegations

 

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the longtime personal secretary of Benedict XVI, greets Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, on Jan. 2, 2023, at St. Peter’s Basilica, where Benedict is lying in state. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 2, 2023 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Just two official state delegations — from Italy and Germany — will attend the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Vatican’s press office has confirmed, answering one of the many novel protocol questions posed by the death of a pope emeritus.

The German-born Benedict, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, lived in Italy for more than 40 years, beginning in 1981. The Holy See Press Office confirmed on Dec. 31 that the two countries were sending official representatives to the funeral, which will be on Thursday.

Both Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Italian Prime Minister Geogia Meloni paid their respects to the late pontiff Monday morning at St. Peter’s Basilica, where his body will lie in state through Jan. 4. While there, Meloni offered her condolences to Benedict’s longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella (first row, second from right) and his daughter Laura Mattarella, Italy's First Lady, pay their respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whose body lies in state in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, on Jan. 2, 2023. Vatican Media
Italian President Sergio Mattarella (first row, second from right) and his daughter Laura Mattarella, Italy’s First Lady, pay their respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whose body lies in state in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, on Jan. 2, 2023. Vatican Media

According to the news magazine Der Spiegel, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will attend Benedict’s funeral on Thursday in an official capacity.

The protocols after the death of a reigning pope have in the past provided a well-known set of rituals, but the death of a pope emeritus presents a unique situation. Speculation about whether he would be buried in papal dress or that of a cardinal has been accompanied by other questions surrounding who will attend the funeral in an official capacity since Benedict XVI is no longer a head of state.

The answer appears to be a mixture of papal rites. Buried in the papal red, his body was adorned with many features reserved for a pope, but not all: the characteristic red shoes worn by Benedict as pope were replaced by black ones. In the case of official delegations, just two were invited, though any public figure can attend the event in a personal capacity.

According to official numbers reported by CNA in 2005, 159 delegations attended the funeral of John Paul II, the last reigning pontiff to die. Additionally, 157 cardinals, 700 archbishops, and more than 6,000 journalists, photographers, and other media personnel were in attendance.

The funeral of a reigning pope is attended by a large number of cardinals, who have to come to Rome to attend the conclave, the election of a new pope. The number of cardinals who will attend Benedict’s funeral has not yet been confirmed, given that no conclave will occur.

The funeral of Benedict XVI will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 5. You can view it live on EWTN here.


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