Religion

Archbishop expresses ‘sadness’ on death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Book of condolence available to be signed at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral through today

The Most Reverend Patrick Christopher Pinder, archbishop of Nassau, expressed “sadness” at learning of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who died on December 31, 2022 in his residence at the Vatican.

Pinder invited the Roman Catholic community and the Bahamian community to join the global community in offering a prayer for Benedict XVI who served as pope from April 19, 2005 until his resignation on February 28, 2013.

A book of condolence is available at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, West Street, for people who wish to sign it, through today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The funeral for Benedict XVI is scheduled for today at 9:30 a.m. in Rome (GMT) and 3:30 a.m. in The Bahamas (EST).

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nassau is expected to schedule a memorial mass at a date to be announced.

Pope Francis praised Benedict’s “acute and gentle thought” as he presided over a packed Wednesday general audience in the Vatican, while thousands of people paid tribute to the former pope on the final day of public viewing in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Francis was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd in the Paul VI auditorium and shouts of “Viva il papa!” or “Long live the pope!” as he arrived for his weekly catechism appointment with the faithful.

The audience was conducted while tens of thousands of people continued to flock to the Vatican to pay their respects to Benedict before the official viewing of his body ended Wednesday evening.

From Monday through midday Wednesday, nearly 160,000 people had passed through the basilica, the Vatican said.

Francis will preside over the late German pope’s funeral on Thursday, an event that is drawing heads of state and royalty despite Benedict’s requests for simplicity and Vatican efforts to keep the first Vatican funeral for an emeritus pope in modern times low-key.

According to the Associated Press, only Italy and Germany were invited to send official delegations, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italian President Sergio Mattarella confirmed their participation.

Other heads of state and government reportedly decided to take the Vatican up on its offer and attend in their “private capacity”. As of a late count Wednesday, the AP reported that seven heads of state, four prime ministers and two delegations of royal representatives were attending as private citizens, including the president of Togo, the prime minister of Gabon and royals from Belgium and Spain.

And in a further sign of officialdom, the Italian government announced it was lowering all Italian and European Union flags to half-staff on public buildings across the country Thursday.

Francis drew applause when he opened his remarks by giving a shoutout to all those who were outside paying tribute to Benedict, whom he called a “great master of catechesis”.

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

Vatican officials were to place Benedict’s body in a cypress coffin – the first of three coffins – along with a brief, written summary of his historic papacy, the coins minted during his pontificate and his pallium stoles.

After the funeral in the piazza, the remains were to be carried back into the basilica, where the coffin was to be placed inside a zinc one, then finally into another made from oak.

In keeping with Benedict’s wishes, his remains will be placed in the crypt once occupied by the tomb of St. John Paul II in the grottos underneath the basilica. John Paul’s tomb was moved upstairs into the main basilica ahead of his 2011 beatification.

Benedict, who was elected pope in 2005 following John Paul’s death, became the first pope in six centuries to resign when he announced in 2013 that he no longer had the strength to lead the Catholic Church. After Francis was elected pope, Benedict spent his nearly decade-long retirement in a converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens.

Thursday’s rite takes into account the unusual situation in which a reigning pope will preside over a funeral for a retired one, making important changes to a funeral ritual for popes which is highly codified.

Two key prayers, from the diocese of Rome and the Eastern rite churches, that were recited during John Paul’s funeral, for example, will be omitted because Benedict wasn’t pope when he died and because both branches of the Catholic Church still have a reigning pope as their leader: Francis.

While the funeral will be novel, it does have some precedent: 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, the Vatican noted Wednesday.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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