Prayers for Benedict | 

Pope holds New Year’s Day Mass as Vatican prepares to mourn late pontiff Benedict

Francis prayed for his predecessor’s passage to heaven at the service in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican

Pope Francis holds a Mass for the solemnity of St. Mary at the beginning of the new year, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the German theologian who will be remembered as the first pope in 600 years to resign, has died, the Vatican announced Saturday. He was 95. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)© AP/PA Images

Pope Francis holds a Mass for the solemnity of St. Mary at the beginning of the new year, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)© AP

Frances D'EmilioIndependent.ie

Pope Francis prayed for his predecessor’s passage to heaven as he presided over a special New Year’s Day Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, a day after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died in retirement at the Vatican.

The huge basilica will host Benedict’s coffin from Monday, and thousands of faithful are expected to attend the first of three days of viewing.

Benedict, 95, died on Saturday morning in the Vatican where he had lived since retirement. He was the first pope in centuries to resign, citing his increasing frailty.

Francis sat with his head bowed as Mass began on the first day of the year, an occasion the Catholic Church dedicates to the theme of peace.

Pope Francis holds a Mass for the solemnity of St. Mary at the beginning of the new year, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican today. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)© AP

He departed from his written homily to pray aloud for Benedict, imploring the Virgin Mary to “accompany him in his passage to the hands” of God.

The pontiff will lead Benedict’s funeral on Thursday in St Peter’s Square.

That rite will be a simple one, the Vatican has said, in keeping with the wishes of Benedict, who for decades as a German cardinal had served as the Church’s guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy before he was elected pope in 2005.

In the last few years, Francis has hailed Benedict’s decision to become the first pope to resign in 600 years and has made clear he would consider such a step himself.

Crippled by knee pain, the 86-year-old arrived in the basilica in a wheelchair on Sunday, before taking his place in a chair for the Mass, which was being celebrated by the Vatican’s secretary of state.

Francis, who has repeatedly decried the war in Ukraine and its devastation, recalled those who are victims of war, passing the year-end holidays in darkness, cold and fear.

“At the beginning of this year, we need hope, just as the Earth needs rain,” he said.


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