Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Funeral For Former Pontiff Wraps At The Vatican; Former Pontiff To Be Buried Following Funeral Mass. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 05, 2023 - 05:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Live pictures of St Peter's Square in Vatican City, as we continue with our special coverage of the funeral of Pope Benedict the 16th.

Very warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm Bianca Nobilo.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Max Foster live from London. The funeral for Pope Emeritus has just come to an end a short while ago, in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. Benedict had asked for a simple ceremony which we've seen unfolding over the past few hours. Despite the huge crowds really amassing there.

NOBILO: Pope Francis presided over the funeral delivering the homily a short time ago. Before that, nearly 200,000 people paid their respects to the late Pope during the past three days of public viewing. Benedict will be buried in the Vatican crypt inside St. Peter's Basilica.

Here to reflect on what we're seeing is senior Vatican analyst, John Allen, in Rome, Father James Martin, in New York, and papal historian, Christopher Bellitto, is with us from Union, New Jersey.

And let's start with you, Father James Martin. Now that the funeral service is over, what are your personal reflections? What did it mean to you as a Catholic?

JAMES MARTIN, AUTHOR "JESUS : A PILGRIMAGE": Well, one of the things that I was thinking as I looked at and so all of these people that Pope Benedict had known for so many years, was the real sort of scope of his career, if you will, in the church from a priest to a theologian who was active in the Second Vatican Council in the '60s, to the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Pope, you know, a writer, a scholar, and then finally as a kind of grandfatherly figure.

And, you know, it just struck me that, you know, this man has given his entire life to the church. And so, that was my thought that this person, you know, who really gave his whole life to the church was being honored as that. And I thought that Pope Francis' comment calling him faithful friend of the bridegroom that is of Christ, was a really beautiful way to sum up his faith-filled life. NOBILO: And, Christopher, it's interesting, one of the takeaways I've certainly had from speaking to all of you this morning, is this notion, as Father James Martin was just saying that in many ways, Pope Benedict had been an asset to Pope Francis.

There was a lot of focus and perhaps even an overemphasis on the schism between their positions on church doctrine. It seems that the two men did have a lot of respect for each other and manage this relationship quite well, perhaps setting a precedent for future Popes.

CHRISTOPHER BELLITTO, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, KEAN UNIVERSITY: Well, right. As Pope Francis said, the resignation of Benedict makes the possibility of future resignations and institution. And I think what we need to do is work out what that's going to look like.

Certainly, it was confusing to people that Benedict continue to wear white that he took the name -- kept the name Benedict. You know, when a man is elected Pope, he takes a new name. If Benedict is no longer Pope, then he is no longer Benedict.

And he continued to write. So, you know, my three recommendations off the bat would be that we need to have a discussion that puts into protocol the fact that the pope should wear the traditional robes of a bishop. Once a man is ordained as bishop, he is always a bishop. That maybe he goes back to his first name to keep that papal style, and that he's called Bishop Emeritus of Rome. So Joseph Bishop Emeritus of Rome, in this case, and that he not published or give interviews unless he's collaborating closely with the sitting Pope's communications team.

Let alone that we need to have a discussion about protocols about the mental and/or physical incapacity of a pope. There is no such thing as the United States constitution's 25th Amendment, which allows majority of the cabinet to declare that the president is incapacitated and can no longer function as president.

So in the event that a pope falls into a persistent vegetative state, there is no vice pope, there is no co-pope. In fact, there are no regulations, whatsoever, and that's a bad situation. And so what I think one of the gifts of Benedict the 16th in the resignation is to allow us to have these conversations.


And I think that when he is Cardinal Ratzinger, was watching John Paul II in those very painful last few months of his death, like watching your grandmother passed away, he was saying, I'm not going to let that happen to the church that I love. And to me, his resignation will always prove that humility is still a virtue.

FOSTER: John, as we understand it, Benedict is being buried in the same grotto as his predecessor. What happens within the Basilica now the -- you know, the non-public part of the event?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: You're absolutely right. I mean, Benedict had indicated. So this was very much his wish, that he wanted to be buried underneath St. Peter's Basilica in the crypt down below.

In the tomb that had been occupied by Pope John Paul II, between his death in 2005 and his canonization when he was formally declared a saint and his remains were brought up to the main level of the Basilica. And from the beginning, I thought there was -- there's a great poetic arc there. I mean, you know, for 25 years, Joseph writes, you heard the man who became Pope Benedict, was the right hand man of John Paul II. He was the intellectual architect of John Paul's papacy.

I remember at his installation mass when Benedict became Pope in 2005. He said he felt John Paul taking him in his strong hand and guiding them in this new phase of his life. And so I think it is completely appropriate that even in death, there'd be this strong link between John Paul II and Benedict.

What's happening now, Max and Bianca, is that the papal casket now which we saw the casket of Cypress, it's now been placed in a zinc coffin, and that in turn has been paid placed into a coffin of Elm. That is being placed into the tomb that has been prepared for Pope Benedict.

And once those ceremonies are complete, and once the crowd has dispersed, then people will be able to enter the facility. They go down to the crypt and pray before Benedict's tomb. And I would anticipate, over the next several days and weeks, there will be lots of people wanting to do that, Max and Bianca.

NOBILO: Christopher, back to you. We've been discussing Pope Benedict as a professor pope being renowned for his intellectual contribution to Catholicism and recognized for that the world over. And I wonder when people are discussing today as a new era for the Catholic Church. How you interpret that? Could you describe the place that the church now finds itself in with the passing of Pope Benedict?

BELLITTO: Well, I've heard some people speculating that Francis will now in some way be liberated. And I don't think that that's the way to look at it. Francis is his own man. He's always been his own man. And he's used Benedict as an asset.

Moving forward, I think what's interesting is that Joseph Ratzinger who became Pope Benedict, was a theologian at a Vatican II, the Second Vatican Council, which sat between 1962 and 1965, and really updated the church and said that we should embrace the world and not be afraid of the world.

And John Paul II was a bishop, one of the boy bishops, as they called him, because he was in his late 30s at the time for all of the sessions. And so, when you're at the council, if you wrote some of the documents as Joseph Ratzinger did, drafted some of the documents, you're invested in the council in a certain way.

Francis is a child of the council. He was not ordained until 1969, four years later. And it typically takes the church between 50 and 100 years to figure out what a council is. So, you know, it -- to oversimplify, after Vatican II, there were some interpretations that went maybe a little too far in the experimental stage, then there was a bit of a blowback during the John Paul II. And now, I think we are in a natural synthesis time coming up on the 60th anniversaries of Vatican II. And I think that Pope Francis' papacy will be the beginning of that synthesis, to look back with the benefit of 2020 hindsight to take the best to avoid the worst and to really make sense of it moving forward.

FOSTER: James Martin, when we look on the Basilica there, it was extraordinary towards the end of the service. We actually saw the fog lifting. It felt like a truly spiritual occasion and they were trying to reflect what they -- what Benedict wanted and the fact that he was a retired pope. Do you think they achieved everything that they wished from this service? Because it was a -- it was a bit of a tightrope, wasn't it?


MARTIN: Yes. I mean, it's difficult to have a simple service in St. Peter's Square, but I think it was. One of the things that's important to remember is that this was the same funeral mass that any Catholic would have, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, what's called the final commendation at the end, which is very beautiful, with the incensing of the coffin.

So I think it did. I mean, you have to have some pomp and ceremony for a former pope, but I think within the guidelines of what Pope Emeritus Benedict wanted, it succeeded very well.

I'll also say that Pope Francis, I think something that Cardinal -- that Pope Benedict would have like, stuck very closely to the traditional Catholic practice of having the homily focus on the readings, right, and not be a eulogy. So it was a very short homily, very simple, very heartfelt. I thought it was very beautiful. And I think what -- one of the wonderful things is that so many people were able to participate virtually, which is another kind of new thing that I think that Benedict would have appreciated.

NOBILO: And, John, you follow the Vatican very closely, are there any stories about Pope Benedict or anecdotes that you thought of today, which really illuminates the man and the pope that he was?

ALLEN: You know, it's interesting, Bianca, all morning, I've been thinking that I've been doing this job for almost 25 years now. I got to Rome to cover the Vatican in the mid-90s. There has never been a moment in which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, wasn't a central focus of my daily work.

You know, for the first part of the time I was here, he was the doctrinal czar under John Paul II, then he was Pope. And then for the last 10 years, he has been a key point of reference, and it really against his own will, at times. A symbol of conservative descent from his successor, Pope Francis.

You know, in terms of stories, I mean, they are legion, but I'll tell you the one that's been going through my mind this morning, apropos of his desire to have a simpler funeral ceremony with less pomp and circumstance than one normally associated with these events. Well, February 28, 2013, you know, the pope announced his resignation on February 11th. And he set the actual end of his papacy for 8:00 p.m. Rome time on the evening of February 28. So around 7:00 o'clock that night. He and his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, left the papal apartment for the final time. And they were met by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome under John Paul, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who was waiting for them in the elevator inside the Papal Palace when they got out.

And Ruini greeted Pope Benedict, he was still pope in that moment for another few minutes. And he was weeping. He was just unable to contain his sadness. And Benedict, and he -- and he bend over, bend down to it because the folks ring, Benedict pulled him up and said, look, dear, Camillo, don't worry about it. Pope's come and go. The important thing is that Christ is here.

I just think that it's so characteristic of Benedict's whole mentality, his ecclesiology in his understanding of the papacy. He never believed that the fate of the church or the fate of the papacy itself, dependent entirely on him. And when the time came that he felt he was no longer equal to its demands, he was completely ready to step aside.

And I think that speaks to a man who whatever, whatever conclusion one wants to draw, about his theological legacy or his policies as pope, on a personal level, I can tell you, he was one of the kindest, gentlest, most approachable and just nicest people I've ever met in the course of my life. And I think his resignation, the quiet with which you've lived the last decade, and the simplicity of this ceremony is all very much in keeping with the man.

NOBILO: I think that's a very appropriate note to conclude on. John Allen, Christopher Bellitto, and Father James Martin, thank you all so much.

Catholics around the world have bid farewell to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Shortly, we'll go live to Vatican City where his funeral mass just ended.



NOBILO: You're looking at live pictures of St Peter's Square in Vatican City where a funeral mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ended just a short time ago.

FOSTER: Lots of German slogans in there -- in the crowd there. He was, of course, a German Pope. Pope Francis led the ceremony, becoming the first pontiff in modern times to preside over his predecessor's funeral. Benedict's remains were taken into St. Peter's Basilica with his final resting place in a Vatican crypt.

NOBILO: And he'll be buried in the tomb that was first reserved for Pope John Paul II whose remains were move when he was later declared a saint. CNN Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher, is standing by in St. Peter's Square.

FOSTER: And in Rome, our CNN senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen. Fred, described the atmosphere. I mean, it was a simple service, wasn't it? But it also felt very papal at the same time if that's the right way of describing it.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think you're absolutely right. I think it felt very papal. I think that it felt, you know, very humble. Really to the occasion exactly what Pope Benedict to would have wanted.

I think one of the things that you just touched on, Max, is certainly absolutely correct, we did see, especially towards the end of the service, those German flags coming out, those Bavarian flags coming out, actually outnumbering the German flags and a lot of signs in German as well, in German, saying thank you to Pope Benedict.

And I really think that that shows where his main support base has always remained, which is in Germany, and specifically there in Bavaria where really the folks there believe that he is one of them, never stopped being one of them. They're very close to him.

And a lot of delegations from people in Bavaria and from Germany had been coming here to the Vatican over the past almost 10 years that he was not the actual sitting pope anymore, continued to visit Pope Benedict. So certainly a larger-than-life figure, which will continue to be in that area of Germany and in Germany, of course, as well.

But also, I think, when we look at this ceremony, I think it's definitely one which unfolded exactly the way that Pope Benedict would have wanted it to unfold. Still, of course, had all the ceremonies of the Catholic Church. It was, of course, exactly according to plan, but at the same time, nothing like the ceremony for John Paul II, which of course, was a gigantic ceremony with well over a million people around the area of the Vatican, much smaller affair happened there today, a much more humble affair, much more subdued affair, that happened today at St. Peter's Square.

So definitely right along the lines of the way that Pope Benedict XVI would have wanted to be remembered, the way that Pope Benedict XVI conducted his own papacy, the pontificate, and certainly the way that he conducted most of his life.

Most people who witnessed Pope Benedict actually had the pleasure and the honor, really, of coming very close to Pope Benedict in the early stages of his pontificate. I was on St. Peter's Square when he became the Pope, when he first came out on the balcony, you know, beforehand, having said that he didn't want to become pope.

You did see that he would do his utmost to make sure that the gravity and the honor of that office is something that he also reflected and that he honored himself. And he certainly really, in the first years of his papacy, he did have a lot of energy at that point in time when he went to Germany for the first time for the World Youth Day. He then later went back to Bavaria. Those certainly definitely, I would say, were the highlight years of his pontificate, the early stages, of course, then things became more difficult as time went on.

But, you know, this definitely was a ceremony that really speaks to the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI inside the Vatican as one of the most powerful people there over the decades, but also someone who never lost touch with his roots. I think it's very fitting that you have such a large delegation from the German government, and also so many people coming from his Bavarian homeland and, of course, from the rest of Germany as well, guys.

NOBILO: And, Delia, you cover the papacy so closely, and I believe you may have met the former Pope Benedict XVI, as well. For yourself and your team and those around you, with all of the ceremony of today, the funeral, seeing a current pope presiding over the funeral of a former pope, what made the most indelible impression on you?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think today was absolutely what Pope Benedict represented. I was just about to say how calm and solemn the crowd was, and a Bavarian marching band came straight by. So certainly, as Fred was saying, the Bavarians are out in full force.

But absolutely, it was a straightforward Catholic funeral, and no major -- no major sort of things to happen inside that mass so that it would seem like he was being honored in a kind of outsized way. That wasn't what he was about.

You know, we talked about Pope Benedict as a theologian. And I think a good example of the difference between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis is that Pope Francis says, he'd like to put all theologians on an island, because the theologian is the one that has to hash out all of the doctrine of the Catholic Church and the teachings and so on. And Francis is the man of action. And, of course, you need both of those things.

So this funeral today really brought home to me and I think to people that cover the Vatican. Those two aspects that you say goodbye to this conservative, yes, pope, but to this theologian on the part of a pope who is a man of Praxis, a man of action and very much loved for that. So certainly the whole universal Catholic Church is sort of summed up in those two figures. Bianca, Max.


FOSTER: Delia, Fred, thank you both very much indeed. I mean, these moments, few organizations do the better than the Vatican. It was a really poignant, amazing service and somebody they've been trying to grapple with really because they haven't been through this before, but it certainly came off absolutely brilliantly today. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Max Foster

NOBILO: I'm Bianca Nobilo and "CNN THIS MORNING" is next right here on CNN.