Pope Francis to preside over 'simple' Pope Benedict funeral service

Who is going to Pope Benedict’s funeral? King Philippe of Belgium and Queen Sofia of Spain will be amongst those going to ‘simple’ service presided over by Pope Francis

  • The funeral of Pope Benedict XVI will take place in the Vatican City on Thursday
  • Millions of people are set to attend and view him lying in state after his death
  • His successor Pope Francis will preside over the service at St Peter’s Basilica
  • Members of royal families from Spain and Belgium are expected to attend 

Members of Europe’s royal families, including King Philippe of Belgium and Queen Sofia of Spain, will be among those at the funeral of Pope Benedict later this week.

The ‘simple’ service, which will be presided over by Pope Francis on Thursday, is set to commemorate the former Catholic leader who died at the age of 95 on New Year’s Eve.

Delegations from countries such as Germany and Ireland will also attend, while senior politicians from Italy and Hungary have already attended St Peter’s Basilica to pay their respects as his body lies in state.  

Millions of people from around the world are expected to watch the ceremony, which will be the first funeral for a pontiff hosted by his successor.

Queen Sofia of Spain, pictured here with her husband Juan Carlos, is set to attend Pope Benedict’s funeral

King Philippe of Belgium and his wife Queen Mathilde, pictured together, will also go to the service

Representatives from all of Europe’s Catholic royal families are expected to attend the funeral service of Benedict, who was born Joseph Ratzinger in Marktl, Germany, in 1927.

Queen Sofia is set to attend for Spain, which is the largest Catholic country with a royal family still in place. It is not known whether her husband, former King of Spain Juan Carlos I, will join her.

King Felipe is not expected to be there, with a packed schedule for the week – including the Pascua Militar ceremony in Madrid on January 6 – set to make it difficult for him and his wife Queen Leitizia to attend, Royal Central report.

King Philippe of Belgium is also set to be there, along with his wife Queen Mathilde, according to local media. His father Albert II, who ruled Belgium from 1993 to 2013, is not expected to attend.

Other Catholic royal families in Europe include Luxembourg, Lichtenstein and Monaco and all of these are expected to have representatives in attendance.

The King of Lesotho, Letsie III, is also Roman Catholic although it is not known whether the monarch of the southern African nation will attend at this time.

It is not known whether the British royal family will send a representative to the funeral on Thursday.

The Royal Family are heads of the Church of the England, so are not Roman Catholic, but that did not stop the future King Charles attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

On that occasion the Prince of Wales was joined by Prime Minster Tony Blair and his wife Cherie, as well as Conservative Party leader Michael Howard and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

The ‘simple’ service will be presided over by Pope Francis, pictured, the first time a pontiff’s funeral has been hosted by his successor

Pope Benedict XVI, pictured here waving to the crowd in 2006, died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95

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Because Benedict was no longer a reigning pontiff when he died, official delegations have been limited to those from Italy and his native Germany. 

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has already travelled to the Vatican to pay her respects in person.

Hungarian premier Viktor Orban was seen among those paying their respects to the Pope in St Peter’s Basilica earlier today.

The Prime Minister is a member of the Hungarian Reformed Church, which is Protestant, but his wife and five children were raised as Roman Catholic. 

According to Der Spiegel, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will go to the funeral, while Ireland will send its newly appointed ambassador to the Holy See, Frances Collins, as its only representative. 

The country’s Department of Foregin Affairs told The Irish Times: ‘In line with the official notification issued by the Vatican on December 31st on the arrangements for the funeral ceremony for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with the exception of Germany and Italy, the presence of other official delegations is not envisaged.

‘Countries are expected to be represented by their ambassadors. Ireland will be represented by Ambassador Frances Collins.’

In the coming days thousands will file through St Peter’s Basilica to view Pope Benedict lying in state, with the final visitors allowed in at 7pm on Wednesday.

The funeral itself will begin at 9.30am the following day in St Peter’s Square with tens of thousands of mourners expected to attend.

The details of the funeral are still not known.

Benedict has been lying in state without any papal regalia – such as a crosier, a silver staff with a crucifix, or a pallium, a band of cloth worn around the neck.

It was not clear if the pastoral cross or any other items he used as pope will be buried with him.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Benedict will be buried according to his wishes in the same spot under St Peter’s Basilica where his predecessor John Paul II was originally interred in 2005. His body was later moved up to a chapel in the basilica in 2011. 

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