Vatican in uncharted territory for former Pope Benedict’s funeral

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The funeral of Benedict XVI will be held on Thursday 5 January and will be presided over by Pope Francis, the Vatican has said.

The Vatican has confirmed Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral will be held on 5 January.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni  said the service will take place next Thursday in St Peter’s Square.

The ceremony will start at 9.30am.

The former pontiff’s body will be on public display in St Peter’s Basilica starting on Monday for people to pay their final respects.

There are strict rituals and procedures in place following the death of a pope, but it’s unclear whether these will apply to a pope emeritus (“emeritus” is a Latin word meaning “retired”).

When Benedict XVI resigned in 2013 citing “old age”, he became the first pope in 600 years to step down.

That means his death is uncharted territory for the modern Catholic Church.

If the Vatican has plans for the procedures following his death, it has yet to share them with the public.

One of the most important rituals that usually takes place after the death of a pope involves calling cardinals from around the world to congregate in the Vatican and elect a new pope – but that will not happen.

His biographer, Peter Seewald, has regularly said Benedict XVI wanted to be buried in the tomb that belonged to John Paul II before he was canonised.

And since he served as head of state of the Vatican City – which is its own independent city-state surrounded by Rome and governed by the Pope – it’s likely officials from around the world will be invited to the funeral.

The most significant ritual that usually happens following the death of a pope – electing a new one – will not happen.

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