Benedict XVI was ‘great master of catchesis’ says Pope Francis

Vatican City, Jan 4 (EFE).- Pope Francis hailed his late predecessor Benedict XVI as a master educator of the Christian faith on Wednesday, the third and final day for the public to see the former pope lying in state.

He was “a great master of catechesis (Christian religious education),” Francis said of the German-born pope emeritus who died on Saturday at the age of 95.

“His acute and gentle thought was not self-referential, but ecclesial, because he always wanted to accompany us in the encounter with Jesus.

“Jesus, Crucified and Risen, the Living One and the Lord, was the destination to which Pope Benedict led us, taking us by the hand. May he help us rediscover in Christ the joy of believing and the hope of living.”

St. Peter’s Basilica reopened at 7 am (06:00 GMT) for the third day on Wednesday and hundreds of people began to enter in an orderly fashion to bid farewell to Benedict XVI, but without the long lines of previous days.

Over Monday and Tuesday, around 135,000 people said their goodbyes to the ex-pontiff.

Preparations were being finalized for Thursday’s funeral mass, which is expected to attract a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands.

It will be presided over by Francis in St. Peter’s Square, starting at 9.30 am, but officiated by Cardinal Dean Giovanni Battista Re due to the mobility problems of the Argentinian pontiff.

More than 400 bishops and 4,000 priests are expected for the funeral rites, which are to be almost the same as those of reigning popes, except for some small details due to his emeritus status at the time of death.

As it is not a state funeral, only official delegations from Benedict’s native Germany and Italy have been invited, as well as numerous ecumenical representatives.

So far, Spain’s emeritus queen Sofía and Minister of the Presidency Félix Bolaños have confirmed their presence in a personal capacity, as well as Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki; Hungary’s President Katalin Novàk and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán; Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa; King Philippe of Belgium and Slovenia’s President Nataša Pirc Musar, while France will send Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

After the closing of the gates Wednesday, the cypress wood coffin will be closed, but first, as is tradition, medals and coins minted during his eight years as pope will be placed inside, as well as the pallia used as pontiff and as metropolitan archbishop of Munich and Rome, and a metal tube holding a deed written in Latin describing his pontificate.

The coffin will be taken to the atrium of the basilica on Thursday at 8.45 am for the recitation of the rosary by all the faithful before the start of mass.

Later his coffin will be placed into a zinc coffin and then both will be placed into another made of wood.

Benedict will be laid to rest, as he requested, in the grottoes beneath the basilica, in the tomb where St John Paul II was buried before his beatification. EFE


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