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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis foiled plans for a state funeral for Benedict XVI and ordered the scaling down of his predecessor's burial rites, Church Militant has learned.
Vatican officials involved in the coordination of the pope's emeritus funeral rites revealed that Francis personally intervened to deny Benedict the "shoulder procession" of his coffin being borne by pallbearers from the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica.
Francis, instead, ordered Benedict's body to be transported by minivan from the pope emeritus' monastic residence to the basilica. An insider told Church Militant that this amounts to "denying him a worthy hearse."
"We had planned for the minivan to make a brief halt in front of Casa Santa Marta to symbolize the continuity between the two popes and to honor Francis as the reigning pope, but at the last moment, Francis said he no longer wanted it," the source added.
"The jealousy is really bad. Benedict did not deserve it," another insider said, lamenting that they were hearing "bad anecdotes of how the ruler is behaving."
Multiple sources confirmed that Pope Francis did not want an "official period of mourning" or for Benedict's body to be lying in state for an extended period. One cardinal said that it was a "deliberately cut-back affair."
"The funeral Mass was also deliberately timed for 9:30 a.m., as this would render it difficult for many faithful who were planning to come to the service from different parts of Italy to travel to Rome," sources said. No bells were rung to mark the passing of the deceased pope emeritus.
In fact, Francis wanted the "abbreviated" funeral to be held on Tuesday and discussed the possibility with Abp. Georg Gänswein, the personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI and prefect of the papal household," a source disclosed.
Gänswein has announced that his tell-all book, Nothing but the Truth: My Life Beside Pope Benedict XVI, will be published later this month by an imprint of the Italian publishing house Mondadori.
"The time has come for the current prefect of the papal household to tell his own truth about the blatant calumnies and dark maneuvers that have tried in vain to cast shadows on the German pontiff's magisterium and actions," a press release for the book reads.
Shortly before Benedict's death, Gänswein said in an interview with German media that he thought Francis' restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass "hit" Benedict "very hard."
On Thursday, the Italian website Silere non Possum reported that Msgr. Diego Giovanni Ravelli, who was appointed as the new master of liturgical celebrations in 2021, had to persuade Francis to remain in St. Peter's Square while Benedict's coffin was being taken into the basilica.
Sources confirmed that Francis indicated his intention to leave immediately after some in the congregation began shouting in Italian, "Benedetto santo subito" (make Benedict a saint immediately). The pope said he was going to leave because it was too cold for him.
While Ravelli succeeded in convincing Francis to remain while the coffin was being borne by the pall-bearers towards St. Peter's, the pope refused to join the procession to the papal tombs in the Vatican grottoes for the final part of the funeral rites and the interment of the body.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the college of cardinals, presided over the private service entombing Benedict's cypress casket, which included coins and medals minted during his pontificate and a lead tube with a deed in Latin listing his pontificate's key points.
When asked if the wishes of Benedict were taken into account, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni "didn't give a clear answer — it does seem as though most of them were but not all," Edward Pentin, author of The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates, noted.
Vatican personnel also expressed frustration over Francis' unwillingness to declare a period of official mourning for the pope emeritus. "Paradoxically, these days the Vatican flag was flying at half-mast only on the front of the Curia of the Society of Jesus," a bureaucrat pointed out.
In contrast, the German parliament building flew the national flag at half-mast, and the British government ordered the union flag to be flown at half-mast over its buildings.
"Francis did not even consider suspending his papal audiences to mark the period between Benedict's death and the funeral," the bureaucrat added. Sources also said that the Holy See sent letters to embassies to the Vatican asking them not to send official delegations to the funeral. The only heads of state to be invited were from Germany and Italy.
An internal letter to employees of the Vatican state governorate made it clear that there was no official holiday declared for Benedict's funeral. Instead, in a letter dated Jan. 4, employees were told that those who wished "to attend the funeral ceremony" would "not need to punch in."
Controversy also erupted over the site of Benedict's final resting place, Silere non Possum reported. Plans to inter the casket in "an above-ground sarcophagus, created ad hoc in recent years," were shelved only after Gänswein insisted on honoring the last wishes of the pope emeritus, who had asked to be buried in the tomb of Pope John Paul II.
The news outlet also reported that various cardinals expressed "anger, bewilderment and pain" at the contempt displayed by Francis towards Benedict in the funeral homily. Many congregants attending the Requiem Mass also complained that it was "a treatment that would not be reserved even for one's worst enemy."
Francis made a single fleeting reference to his predecessor in the final sentence of his sermon, remarking, "Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!"
In contrast, commentators noted that Ratzinger's eulogy at the funeral of Pope John Paul II spoke very highly of the "beloved" late pontiff who "was a priest to the last, for he offered his life to God for his flock and for the entire human family, in a daily self-oblation for the service of the Church, especially amid the sufferings of his final months."
In fact, much of Ratzinger's funeral homily traced the vocation of Karol Wojtyła from his time as a young student "thrilled by literature, the theatre, and poetry," to his priestly and episcopal ministry and finally his achievements as Pope John Paul II.
"Francis barely mentioned the man we were burying — only at the end, as if to say goodbyes," Orthodox writer Rod Dreher, a former Catholic, wrote. "He could have delivered this homily for his butler. Compare it to the detailed, joyful sermon Benedict XVI gave at the funeral of John Paul II."
Benedict's funeral was further soured by a priest who refused to administer Holy Communion to a Catholic who knelt for the sacrament and asked for it to be offered to him on the tongue. A video of the priest snubbing the faithful Catholic has gone viral on social media.
On Friday, a day after Benedict's funeral, Francis released a new apostolic constitution reorganizing the vicariate of Rome, with the pontiff taking more direct control of the activities of the Roman diocese, including more papal oversight over things like the appointment of priests and the review of candidates for ordination.