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Benedict XVI buried in the Vatican crypt

origin 1Burial of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ©AFP

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was buried in a vault under the Vatican after a service led by Pope Francis and attended by 50,000 heads of government and royal guests.

The Vatican estimates that more than 200,000 people attended the three-day vigil for the 95-year-old, who announced his retirement from office in 2013.

Francis made only a fleeting reference to Benedict in his homily, offering a meditation on Christ instead of a eulogy of his predecessor’s legacy before the casket was sealed and buried in the grotto of the basilica.

“Cold by the last words of the Lord and the testimony of his whole life, we too, as an ecclesial community, want to follow in his footsteps and entrust our brother into the hands of the Father”.

Many of the mourners came from Benedict’s native Bavaria and wore traditional clothing, including coats to protect against the morning chill.

The former Joseph Ratzinger, who died on December 31, is considered one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century and spent his life upholding the doctrine of the Church. But he will go down in history for a singular, revolutionary act that changed the future of the papacy.

Francis praised Benedict’s courage in stepping aside.

A choral hymn echoed in the crypt as the coffin was lowered into the ground, with Benedict’s papal coat of arms, a cross, and a plaque recalling in Latin that it contained his body: “Corpus Benedicti XVI PM”, for “pontifex maximus” or ” supreme pontiff”.

While Thursday’s Mass was unusual, it does have some precedents: In 1802, Pope Pius VII presided over the funeral in St. Peter’s of his predecessor, Pius VI, who had died in exile in France in 1799 as a prisoner of Napoleon.