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CNN Live Event/Special

Funeral for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Underway at St. Peter's Square. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 05, 2023 - 04:30   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Pope Francis presiding over the funeral of the former Pope Benedict, there in St. Peter's Square. Holy communion currently taking place as we look on now involving everyone. The huge crowds there gathered in the Square. Benedict died at the age of 95. And he asked for a simple ceremony according to the Vatican press office. And we're really seeing that play out.

Christopher Bellitto is a history professor at Keene University, author of "When a Pope Dies." He joins us from Union, New Jersey. And this is something, you know, you'll be talking about in class, isn't it? Because this is something unprecedented.

CHRISTOPHER BELLITTO, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, KEENE UNIVERSITY: Right, and you know, people think history is dead and it's not. It's certainly alive. I was struck in the homily by what Pope Francis said and didn't say. So, as Delia Gallagher pointed out, we have homilies and sermons and eulogies. A homily is given in the context of a mass, a sermon outside the mass in a eulogy.

And sometimes in a Catholic funeral the person presiding kind of merges the eulogy and the homily. And that really wasn't really done this time. Although Pope Francis quoted Benedict's own words from some of his own writings.

The focus was on pastor, and I think that this speaks to the kind of the smaller papacy. The papacy is larger than any one person which has been a theme of Benedict XVI's papacy and now Francis's papacy as well. He spoke about the pastor and that is ultimately the job of the Pope, to be the chief pastor. I think that Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI's great legacy will be more as a teacher.


And while some people have been talking about, you know, papal saints -- and I'm not a fan of canonizing Popes, or at least right away, un santo subito, a saint right away, as people were saying during the funeral of John Paul II. I do think that eventually some consideration should be made to declaring Joseph Ratzinger a doctor of the church. And there are only 37 doctors of the church, only four of them women, who are raised up or pointed out as being particularly clear, particularly strong in their explanation and their communication of the elements of the faith.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: And Christopher, the papacy has such a long, colorful and rich history. Well over a millennium and a half with many characters and very interesting personalities. How do you think that Pope Benedict will be remembered in that longitudinal analysis when the history books are written?

BELLITTO: Right. So, there have been over 260 men who have been Popes. There were several dozen anti Popes as well. And as you say, it is a colorful history. Anyone watching cable TV, you have fodder for all sorts of that. Sometimes it makes the Game of Thrones blush.

I think that Benedict was very much in the line. Sometimes I think that he was the right Pope for the wrong time. He was very much in line with those Popes following the protestant and Catholic reformation. So, talk about 1600s to about 1900s when we had Popes who presided, Popes who were professors. And this was very much a professor Pope. He reminded me, in fact, of another Benedict, Benedict XIV who lived in the 1700s who basically wrote the book on canonization. How do you examine candidates for canonization and many of those rules altered from maternity are still standing.

FOSTER: In terms of, you know, the power of the church going forward, does it lie more in liberal hands now with a liberal Pope there sitting, presiding over the service?

BELLITTO: No, I have to say that the church is a church of -- at its best the church is a church of both and not either/or. And I think the narrative Benedict conservative, Francis liberal, doesn't quite work. That's a political narrative. I think the church's social teaching on the political spectrum is far left. There was a Pope who said that health care was a universal human right and that was Benedict, not Francis who made that statement. There's much more continuity between Francis and Benedict. It's a question of emphasis.

You know, sometimes people say, well, there's a doctrinal theology and pastoral theology. Obviously, those two things go together but any one human being -- in a classroom I will emphasize this and another person teaching the same medieval history class may emphasize that. It's a question of emphasis and approach.

But I think what we are seeing is a smaller papacy. I think that's what's going to carry forward. And certainly, as Francis himself has said, Benedict, this tradition-bound, you know, man of the old world did something that no one has done in 600 years, immediately gives credibility to a papal resignation and as Francis says, makes it an institution. The conversation we have now is how can we do that a bit better than the post papacy of Benedict XVI.

Christopher Bellitto, thank you very much. Let's listen in to Pope Francis.

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): May the god of our Fathers, through Jesus Christ, his only son in the Holy Spirit, Lord and giver of life, deliver Pope Emeritus Benedict from death, that he may sing God's praises in the heavenly Jerusalem in expectation of the resurrection of his mortal body on the last day. May the blessed Virgin Mary, queen of the apostles and Salus Populi Romani intercede before the eternal Father that he may reveal the face of Jesus, his son, to Pope Emeritus Benedict and to console the church on her pilgrimage through history as she awaits the Lord's return.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): And as part of this and every funeral service incense now will be offered reminding us that as baptized members of Christ, we share in his very own life as well as the blessing of water, a reminder of our baptism.

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): Gracious father, we commend to your mercy Pope Emeritus Benedict, whom you made successor of Peter and shepherd of the church. A fearless preacher of your word and a faithful minister of the divine mysteries.

Welcome him, we pray, into your heavenly dwelling place and enjoy eternal glory with all your chosen ones. We give you thanks, Lord, for all the blessings that in your goodness you bestowed upon him for the good of your people. Grant us the comfort of faith and the strength of hope. Dear Father, source of life, through Christ, the conqueror of death in the life giving spirit, the all honor and glory forever and ever, amen. The final act for him in paradise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): May the angels lead you into paradise. May the martyrs come and welcome you and take you into the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem. May choirs of angels welcome you and with Lazarus who is poor no longer, may you have eternal rest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as the Requiem mass concludes, the pallbearers approach the coffin of the Pope Emeritus Benedict. They will bear his coffin into the Basilica and then to his final resting place below the Basilica in the Vatican grottos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The procession accompanying the body. At the head of the remains of our Holy Father, the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last chant here the canticle of canticles, you might say. That Our Lady sang out on her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. A canticle used every evening fitting that Our Lady would have the final word here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the bearers raise the coffin bearing the immortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Once again, the bells tolling out. The body of the Pope Emeritus, as we mentioned at the beginning of the broadcast, will be brought into the Basilica. There will be a private ceremony later on.


For those of you watching on television saw and can see the cypress coffin that the Holy Father's remains are in. That will be sealed in a zinc coffin which will in turn be enclosed within a wooden case and the final coffin in oak.

There's a quasi-liturgical ceremony that goes along with that. At that point the body will be taken to the grottos beneath the Vatican Basilica where there are a few more prayers for the final entombment of our Holy Father. He'll be placed in the chapel where John Paul II -- St. John Paul II, his predecessor, was originally buried prior to his beatification and that is in accordance with Benedict XVI's final wishes.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, having come down from the presider's chair is awaiting the coffin of his predecessor, the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and is there to give a final blessing, say a few words placing his hand upon the coffin and bowing his head in prayer and reflection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As we know, on several occasions Pope Francis has said that he used to visit Benedict often. He has called him grandfather and on the most -- in a recent interview actually did not hesitate to call Pope Benedict a saint. And we see here some of his own fellow countrymen who have come to bid their Pope Benedict farewell.

And he called those meetings with Pope Emeritus Benedict personal, fraternal and affectionate. Final farewell between Pope Francis and the Pope who accompanied his pontificate in prayer.

FOSTER: The body of Benedict XVI being carried into St. Peter's Basilica where he'll finally be laid to rest after this very poignant service. The fog too late lifting over the Basilica as the service came to an end. Let's go to Delia Gallagher who's there in St. Peter's Square -- Delia.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: So, Max, we're seeing now the final moment that we will be able to see the coffin of Benedict XVI just at the end of the mass. There was the dispersion of the baptismal water, so the holy water and then the incense around the coffin. Pope Francis said the final prayer.

And it goes back inside the Basilica now where, again, accompanied by a ritual. It will be taken down into the crypt where other Popes are buried. It will be placed in the same spot that John Paul II was before he was made a saint and brought inside the Basilica. That will be the final resting place for the Pope Emeritus.

That is a place people can come, visit and pay homage to. Tourists come through quite often and visit the tomb there and that is where Pope Benedict will lay.

So, the end of an era in a certain sense for the Catholic Church. As we been talking all morning, he was such a major intellectual figure, even outside of his papacy as Joseph Ratzinger and someone who I think your previous guests, Professor Bellitto suggested, there was a movement to may be make him a father of the church, which is a sort of title for someone who has really contributed in an intellectual way.

I must say here, Max, we've seen some signs, we just saw one santo subito, which means, make him a saint immediately. And that brings memories of John Paul II's funeral, when we had santo subito chanted and signs everywhere to make John Paul II a saint -- which eventually did happen.


I'm not sure if Benedict would have wanted that. He was very self- effacing, wasn't interested in Popes being saints. But it is an outpouring from the faithful for their affection, for the person.

Of course, we've noticed all morning that we have much smaller crowds. As you can imagine that the John Paul II funeral was an entirely different Pope, an entirely different situation. He was ill for two months before he died so people had plenty of time to come and to pay their respects. They were here with candles and all night vigils and the Square and the entire city really packed.

Quite a different feeling this morning naturally because we're talking about a Pope who's been retired, resigned for the last ten years and living in the Vatican, 95 years old. And a very, very different personality from his predecessor as well as a different personality from Pope Francis.

Of course, whom we have to think about this morning as he begins his new moment in his pontificate. He's lived the last ten years with Pope Benedict in his background, and as much as that has been something that could help him, in the first years especially to find his feet, to be able to have somebody to talk to, and by all accounts they did speak and there was a good rapport between them. At the same time Pope Benedict certainly represented and for the conservative Catholic faithful almost became a more divisive pontificate because he was still around. So, it will be interesting to see now how Pope Francis takes this forward without Pope Benedict -- Max.

FOSTER: Delia in St. Peter's Square. Thank you.

NOBILO: And we'll be right back with more of our special coverage of the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Do stay with us.