With the passing of the former, honorary Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned almost ten years ago, the Vatican is now heading into uncharted territory. The funeral of the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the appointment of a successor is a procedure that has its own particular sequence.
Usually, after a pope dies, there is a brief convocation during which the cardinals elect the new pope. Since Pope Francis’ successor has been in charge of the Church since 2013, that scenario won’t occur this time.
The Vatican released a number of statements throughout the day following the announcement of the passing of Pope Benedict XVI, whose legal name was Joseph Ratzinger. These remarks demonstrate how meticulously planned the entire process was.
Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Constitution in 1996, which stipulates that the dead head of state shall be buried between the fourth and sixth day after passing away.
It will be the same this time since the former pope’s burial, which will be conducted in St. Peter’s Square on January 5—exactly five days after his passing—died today at the age of 96.
The present pope will conduct the burial rite for the first time.
According to sources close to the Holy See, the funeral would be modest but solemn.
The body of Pope Benedict XVI will also be on public display in St. Peter’s Basilica from Monday through Wednesday so that mourners may pay their respects, according to a separate announcement from the Vatican. His remains will be kept in a tiny monastery within the Vatican gardens up to that time.
The body of John Paul II, the last pope to pass away, was displayed in St. Peter’s Square in 2005 before his formal funeral in front of a large gathering of monarchy officials and heads of state.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was subsequently elected Pope, presided over the service. The funeral of the well-liked Polish Pope was then attended by many million people.
The German pope, who presided over the Roman Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013, was a former head of state, so his funeral should draw a sizable official and worshipper attendance even though his popularity has never matched that of John Paul II.
Tradition will also be observed when it comes to where Benedict XVI will be buried, as he will be buried among his forefathers in a vault beneath St. Peter’s Basilica.
When a pope passes away, it is usual to burn his ring, which is produced especially for each new pope. Those rings were once used as document seals.
The papal coat of arms on Benedict XVI’s ring was covered with the letter X, rendering it useless, and thus the ring has already been destroyed. When he resigned, this was completed.