Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Funeral for Former Pontiff Underway at St. Peter's Square. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 05, 2023 - 04:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We now move to the prayer of the faithful.

POPE FRANCS (through translator): Brothers and sisters, let us pray to God our Father, with his great mercy has given us rebirth to a living hope, to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The response is let us pray to the Lord.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We pray in German. The Pope Emeritus Benedict who has fallen asleep in the Lord, may the eternal shepherd receive him into his kingdom of light and peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We pray in French. For our holy father Pope Francis and for all the pastors of the church, may they proclaim fearlessly in word and deed Christ's victory over evil and death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We pray in Arabic. For our leaders of nations and international organizations, may they strive to promote justice and peace with wisdom and foresight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We pray in Portuguese. For our brothers and sisters in need, may God's love open our hearts to compassion and concern for the poor and for the least of our brothers and sisters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): And we pray in Italian. For us gathered to celebrate the defeat of death by the triumph of the Lord Jesus, may it be for us a leaven of hope as we await the coming of the kingdom.

POPE FRANCS (through translator): God, our father, lover of life, hear the prayers we raise to you with faith in the risen Lord for Pope Emeritus Benedict and for the needs of the church and of our world. Grant us shared worship with you in the heavenly Jerusalem where sorrow and tears will be no more through Christ our Lord.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we now transition to the liturgy of the Eucharist. The choir offer as our operatory chant Domine Jesu Christi. And as we move forward, we reflect on these words Pope Francis said yesterday. Pope Benedict's acute and gentle thought was not self- referential but ecclesial because he always wanted to accompany us in our 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.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: CNN is covering all angles of today's events. Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher is in St. Peter's Square where the funeral is taking place.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: We also have CNN international correspondent Fred Pleitgen and senior Vatican analyst as well, John Allen.

NOBILO: Delia let's just start with you. We've just been hearing prayers being recited in Italian, Latin, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish. What will be the impact of today on the international Catholic community?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this is the always way with masses from the Vatican because, of course, it's a recognition these masses are broadcast throughout the world and that Catholics are from different countries throughout the world. So, there are always prayers and readings in different languages.

In the homily when Pope Francis spoke just a few moments ago, you'll notice the homily has some real rules to it. It needs to refer to the scriptures, to the readings that were given at mass. So, that's why we didn't hear him necessarily giving an eulogy for Pope Benedict. It was a reflection on the scriptures but in homage to Pope Benedict it was taken, there were excerpts from some of Pope Benedict's own reflections on some of the scriptural readings.

Of course, for Pope Benedict, the liturgy, the mass was a central part of his work and of Catholicism. He was very devoted to it. And so, it strikes me that this mass today we have, yes, a Pope who is very conservative being buried, a Pope who is more progressive in Pope Francis, but it really does represent the Catholic Church under this one umbrella. That's what it's all about. You can have the conservative and the progressive sides, but they stay unified. They stay together. That's what's been happening throughout the decades. A kind of the pontificate here from the Vatican trying to keep all of those elements under the same umbrella. And surely now with Pope Benedict's death, that will also be foremost in Pope Francis's mind going forward -- Bianca.

FOSTER: Fred, in terms of what you're seeing and what your feeling from the atmosphere there, how would you describe it? Because we've talked about how, you know, this is not a full papal funeral. It had to, you know, look at what Benedict wanted here but also to try to re- event the occasion because it's so unprecedented with a sitting Pope overseeing the funeral of a former Pope.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if we look at the funeral we compare it, for instance, to the funeral of John Paul II, Max, it is in pretty much almost all respects a papal funeral. It is being held as though this were a sitting Pope obviously with some of the differences in the fact, he was no longer a Pope anymore and you do have Pope Francis, the actual sitting Pope presiding over the ceremony there today.

I think the big difference that you have right now is the fact that it's a smaller event, if you will, than when John Paul II was laid to rest. I have looked at some of the numbers just a couple of minutes ago of 2005 when around 1.1 million people were gathering around St. Peter's Square. Obviously, you had several hundred thousand on St. Peter's Square itself but then also in the surrounding areas. That was also jam packed as well. So certainly, a much smaller event.

Also, if you look at -- as you put very correctly, Max -- the amounts of heads of state and heads of government that have come. Look at for instance at the United States sending the envoy to the Holy See instead of sending a delegation from the United States.


But also, some other countries as well, that certainly is very much in line with what Pope Benedict XVI wanted. Where he said that he wanted a more humble ceremony, a smaller ceremony. Obviously, we are talking about the Catholic Church here. We can see some of this on our screens just now, that the gigantic St. Peter's Square from the big pomp that is always part of these ceremonies. A real humble ceremony is obviously something that's almost impossible in an organization that is as large and world spanning as the Catholic Church is.

But it certainly is different in many ways than the ceremony for Pope John Paul II than some other Popes in the past as well, in that it is somewhat a more humble affair. Also of course, very much fitting with what Pope Benedict wanted for himself and also with the character that Pope Benedict was.

I think John Allen was referring to it a little while ago, you know, saying he was a very humble figure. He was someone who was very much down to earth. That he really put the papacy and the pontificate above itself. That he said that the office of the Pope is definitely more important than that single one person.

He is of course someone who himself and said that he never wanted to become Pope, that he was going to fill the papacy as best that he could when he did become Pope but certainly definitely someone who put the Catholic Church above all and who really saw himself as someone who said the doctrine of the church, someone who really delved for hours and days into the libraries of the Vatican looking at scriptures, looking at the books that are down there as well. Who saw himself as a theologian above all and definitely not someone who was as outgoing as, for instance, John Paul II was, who was traveling around the world wooing the masses there and definitely someone who was, you know, an icon for so many Catholics. And not just that, for so many people around the world. Pope Benedict certainly a bit more subdued in his ways.

And I think that that funeral that we're seeing right now is definitely, the service we're seeing right now very fitting for who Pope Benedict was, the kind of character that Pope Benedict was and certainly also definitely the way that he would have wanted the ceremony to take place.

And I think some of the words we heard from Pope Francis really important, not just in the homily just now but also from what we've heard from Pope Francis over the past couple of days in the run up to all this where he acknowledged that Pope Benedict was not doing very well. That he called for prayers for Pope Benedict, you know, in the final days of the year of 2022. And then, you know, finding nothing but kind words since then at all the times that we've seen Pope Francis in public.

We do see that, you know, while there might have been some frictions in the wings of the Catholic Church of the more conservative, and certainly, you know, trying to put Pope Benedict out there, that these two Popes, the Pope and the Pope Emeritus definitely were pretty much in sync in the things that they did.

And certainly, you know, one of the things Pope Francis did say that he praised Pope Benedict after he passed away for the way he had supported Pope Francis over the past couple of years, that Pope Francis could come to him for advice but that he had also, you know, taken a step back to allow Pope Francis to really unfold his own papacy and his own pontificate as well -- Max.

NOBILO: And John, we've discussed elements of Pope Benedict's character. And I'd like to do that through the prism of his decision to resign, which must have been a difficult one. What did that say about him and his approach to the church?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, Bianca, I think what it said first and foremost is that Pope Benedict believed that the church, the papacy was bigger than any one person. That the faith was the church in the world and it did not rest exclusively on his shoulders. And he concluded with that given his age and his energy levels, his increasing frailty at the time he simply wasn't capable of carrying the burden of office anymore and that it would be in the best interests of everyone for him to step aside.

That was in stark contrast, Max and Bianca, you all remember, with the choice of John Paul II who allowed his increasing frailty, only in his illness, his suffering from Parkinson's disease. He allowed all of that to play out in full public view until the very end. Benedict by way of contrast decided that he wanted to spare the church that agony and make way for someone else.


I was just thinking, Max and Bianca, this morning watching this mass play out, the neat irony or the contrast, the last time St. Peter's Square hosted a papal funeral was in 2005 for John Paul II. That mass was led by the Dean of the College of Cardinals at the time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger man who had become Pope Benedict. So, in that case you had a successor celebrating the funeral mass of his predecessor. Today instead we see the successor Pope Francis, presiding over the funeral mass of his predecessor. It is a kind of looking glass moment for the Catholic Church to bury in keeping with the life and the legacy or perhaps one of the most humble men ever to occupy the throne of Peter -- Max and Bianca.

NOBILO: Delia Gallagher, Fred Pleitgen and John Allen, many thanks to all of you. We're now watching the beginning of the communion in the Catholic funeral mass. The Eucharist transubstantiation when the Catholics believe that the bread and wine is being converted into the blood and body of Christ. We're going to take a quick break from the formal Pope's funeral. In a moment we'll speak with a progressive Jesuit priest and best-selling author, about the ceremony, how unprecedented it is, and Pope Benedict's legacy.



NOBILO: You're watching the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI taking place in St. Peter's Square. Of course, named after St. Peter an apostle of Jesus who Catholics consider to be the very first Pope.

FOSTER: Let's bring in Father James Martin from New York. He's the editor at large at American Media and the author of a Jesuit guide to almost everything. Thank you for joining us. Be our guide to what we're seeing now then with holy communion underway there in Vatican City.

I'm sorry, I didn't hear your question.

FOSTER: So just describe -- you know, this is the holy communion moment of the service. So, just take us through the importance of that within this unprecedented event.

FATHER JAMES MARTIN, AUTHOR, JESUS: A PILGRIMAGE: Sure. So, there's essentially two parts of the mass. There is what's called the liturgy of the word which were the readings, the gospel. And we had the homily from Pope Francis who's the presider. Then comes the liturgy of the Eucharist. The central part of the liturgy of the Eucharist is the consecration of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. And then that that is distributed then. That's what you're seeing now.

NOBILO: And Father James, we've discussed so far, the poignancy of this funeral today. Of course, any funeral is a solemn occasion, but to see a current Pope presiding over the funeral of a Pope Emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI, is a hugely significant moment for Catholics. So, what is your personal reflection today?

MARTIN: Well, I think we have to remember that this is the burial of a Christian. It's someone who devoted his entire life to the church. Pope Francis called him -- I thought it was very beautiful -- faithful friend of the bridegroom. Which may sound a little strange. What that means is Jesus Christ typically is seen as the groom for the church and so he's saying that Francis was a friend of Jesus for his whole life.

And we have this person who spent his entire life in service to the church as a priest, as a theologian. He was very active in the Second Vatican Council and then certainly working in the Vatican, in the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, as Pope and Pope Emeritus. So, I'm just thinking of just a long life that he led. And you look out and you see all of the Cardinals and people that knew him and just the impact he had for decades on the Catholic Church. So, it's a very profound moment for me and for so many Catholics.

FOSTER: Is it as you would imagine the service would unfold?

MARTIN: It is. You know, one of the most beautiful things about these masses is that this is essentially the same kind of mass that any Catholic would have. But obviously, it's not in St. Peter's Square. But the liturgy of the word, the liturgy of the Eucharist, the communion, the prayers, was called the final commendation. So, in death, you know, Benedict is like all of us, like all Catholics, like all Christians and the sacraments. This is a sacrament, the funeral mass, is something that unites us all. So, it's another sign of humility that this is the same kind of mass that all of us would have.

NOBILO: Given this is an incredibly rare situation, to have had two Popes simultaneously, how did that, if at all, change the shape of the Catholic Church worldwide, having current Pope, Pope Francis, associated with the more progressive wing of the Catholic Church and then of course, Pope Benedict XVI the more conservative side?


MARTIN: Well, that's a very good question. I think at times, you know, there were some people who sort of coalesced around Benedict. But Benedict always made it clear that there was one Pope. That Pope Francis was in charge. By the same token, Pope Francis was very sort of respectful towards Benedict. One of the things that Francis did regularly was that every time he creates new Cardinals, named new Cardinals, he would bring the Cardinals, to Pope Emeritus Benedict's house, his residence, to see him. He relied on him a lot for wisdom and council. He said it was like having a grandfather around. So, I think Pope Benedict was in a sense a great asset to the papacy even after he resigned.

NOBILO: Father James Martin, thank you so much. We're now going to pause and listen in to the holy communion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The anthem being sung, let the perpetual light shine upon him with your Saints forever for you are merciful.