Why are three coffins used at Benedict XVI’s funeral and what is put in each one?
Benedict XVI, who died on December 31, will be buried on January 5 in three coffins. What is the meaning of this tradition?
Pope Benedict XVI, who died on December 31st, left his mark on history.
The first Pope to renounce his pontificate since the Middle Ages is being mourned by thousands of believers who have gathered at the gates of St. Peter’s in Vatican City to bid a last farewell to the Supreme Pontiff emeritus.
The funeral for Pope Benedict XVI will take place on 5 January, almost ten years after he stepped down as the head of the Catholic Church. The late Pope Emeritus served from 2005 to 2013 and was succeeded by Pope Francis, who will play a critical role in the funeral.
Regarding his burial, it should be noted that Joseph Ratzinger, the birthname of Benedict XVI, will be buried in three coffins, following the tradition carried out by his predecessors.
“More than a cardinal, less than for a pope in office.”
Because Benedict XVI resigned from his post and did not die in the role like many of his predecessors, the funeral is a little different than other ceremonies. Typically, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica are rung to inform the public of the Pope’s death, and some in the media have asked why this situation is different. The Vatican has responded by saying that when he resigned in 2013, the bells were rung, meaning that they will not be heard during this time of mourning.
With no firm guidance on how to treat the death of a retired Pope, as it is a situation the Church has not faced in over six hundred years, many questions of the protocol are being handled as they arise. When asked about the plans for Benedict XVI’s funeral over the last few years, the Vatican has responded that the elements of the funeral would be “more than for a cardinal, less than for a pope in office.”
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Three coffins at the funeral of Benedict XVI
The body of a deceased Pope is a barrier in three coffins that all fit inside one another. The first layer is a coffin made of cypress wood. Here, the coins of his pontificate will be introduced, as well as the pallium and a text that summarizes his work as Pope. The latter object will be installed in a metal cylinder.
Subsequently, this sarcophagus will be inserted into a metallic one. After placing a tape with the official seals in the first, the first coffin will be placed in the second, which will be sealed and welded. All this will take place on Thursday, after mass.
Finally, the double catafalque will be placed in a wooden coffin, and this will be introduced into the Vatican Grottoes. Benedict XVI will be buried in the place occupied by his predecessor, John Paul II. The remains of the Polish Pope were transferred after his beatification to the Chapel of Saint Sebastian, located in the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican.
The first time that a pontiff will officiate the funeral of another Pope
For the first time in Catholic history, the current Pope will officiate the ceremony for a previous Supreme Pontiff. Pope Francis has been a very visible part of this time of mourning, and his speech during the funeral will be carried out under the rite ‘Ordo exequiarum Romani Pontificis,’ as established in the Universi Dominici Gregis Apostolic Constitution of 1996.