As we remember the life and legacy Pope Benedict XVI, Father Dave and Lino Rulli from SiriusXM’s The Catholic Channel travel to Rome for Thursday’s funeral Mass.
While broadcasting from inside St. Peter’s Basilica earlier in the week, they describe the atmosphere where Pope Benedict XVI was lying in state. Father Dave explains, “This is reminding me of a major world figure like we saw a couple of months ago with Queen Elizabeth, where people were just all day lining up to come and really just get a glimpse.” Pope Benedict XVI’s body was placed in front of the Papal altar, which is built directly above the tomb of St. Peter.
Father Dave and Lino discuss the different cultural traditions surrounding death and funerals, and the importance of these rituals. Father Dave says, “We’re standing here looking at thousands of people that are queuing up in line, walking slowly to approach the dead body of someone whom they knew and loved. But it’s something that we do rarely these days, even for someone who we knew much better than we knew Pope Benedict…I feel sad when I hear a lot these days in our modern culture, whether it’s back in the United States or anywhere, that people are secularizing everything around death. There’s no wake, there’s no viewing, there’s no greeting the family.”
St. Peter’s Basilica is still decorated for the Christmas season, and they reflect on the juxtaposition of joy and sorrow of this time. Lino remarks, “You look over, and there’s the Nativity scene. That’s actually the reason we’re all doing this, that’s what Joseph Ratzinger’s life was about. It wasn’t about anything other than Jesus.”
While standing in St. Peter’s Square, Father Dave and Lino discuss the upcoming funeral and the historic nature of Pope Francis presiding over the Mass. Father Dave also explains how this is a full-circle moment and says, “The last time we had a Papal funeral, the roles were somewhat reversed. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was presiding over the funeral of Pope John Paul II in this same place that we’re looking at about 20 yards away.” They reflect on how then-Cardinal Ratzinger was hoping to live a quiet life after celebrating the funeral. Lino says, “In many ways, where we’re standing is where he thought would be, in a sense, the end of his public ministry. [But it] was the very beginning. The cardinals all looked around and were like, oh, this is the guy. This is the guy who knew Pope John Paul II. This is the guy who could become Pope.”
Lino also shares his memories of attending that funeral Mass in 2005, and how then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily moved him to tears. He reflects, “Last night, I was looking at pictures that I had taken of Cardinal Ratzinger, burying his friend. And now, here we are. Pope Francis is burying his friend.”