Pope Francis to lead predecessor Benedict’s funeral

Pope Francis to lead predecessor Benedict’s funeral today.

The fact that another Pope will preside over the funeral is extraordinary – there have not been two living popes since Pope Gregory XII stepped down in 1415, and a pope’s funeral is generally officiated by the Dean of the College of Cardinals.

When Pope John Paul II died, it was then-Dean Benedict XVI himself who presided over his funeral.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95, almost a decade after he stood down because of ill health. The lying-in-state began on 2 January.

For the past three days, Pope Benedict XVI’s body has been lying in state at St Peter’s Basilica.

Some 70,000 people queued up to pay their respects to the former pope on Tuesday, following 65,000 a day earlier. Around 200,000 people in total are believed to have seen the former Pope’s coffin.

Many of them turned up before dawn to catch a glimpse of his body, with some taking photos on their phones, some praying and others making a sign of the cross.

Only the upper echelons of the Italian and German governments are officially invited to the funeral. This is because when Benedict resigned, he ceased to be head of state of Vatican City, and as such will not have a state funeral.

However, many European royals and leaders will attend in a private capacity, including Spanish Queen Mother Sofia and Belgium’s King Philippe and his wife Queen Mathilde.

The heads of state of Poland, Slovenia, Portugal and Hungary will also travel to Rome to pay their respects, as well as French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin.

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