As the Vatican prepares for the funeral today of Pope Emeritus Benedict, security in Rome is tight.
Just one day before the funeral, more police and military personnel can be seen in the streets.
People continued to pay their respects to the former Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday, and by noon more than 100,000 pilgrims are said to have passed through the building.
That evening the basilica will be closed to pilgrims for the last time.
Even if world leaders have not been officially invited to tomorrow’s requiem mass, that doesn’t mean they won’t attend.
As one priest pointed out, people don’t necessarily need an invitation to a funeral.
Should heads of state appear, this could pose diplomatic difficulties for the Vatican regarding seating arrangements.
Vatican protocol on such representation stipulates that those who have been in their roles the longest are seated closest to the front of St. Peter’s Square.
After presenting her credentials to Pope Francis late last year, tomorrow’s funeral will be the first major event for the Ambassador of Ireland to the Holy See, Frances Collins.
She will join your new counterparts from Lithuania and the Netherlands in sitting positions behind those who have long held diplomatic roles at the Holy See.
Protocol is something the Vatican does well, but tomorrow’s funeral is unprecedented.
While it may resemble a papal funeral, there will be differences, some obvious, some more subtle.
Normally a papal funeral is presided over by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, but in this case Pope Francis will preside.
The dress code will be “Business”. For example, this is a departure from the regular men’s coat and tailcoat.
While suit-and-tie regulations for meetings with a pope have been relaxed in recent years, the Vatican’s workwear edict is seen as an interesting direction.
Yesterday it published the booklet of the Mass, which contains readings in Spanish, Latin, English and Italian.
The Vatican said elements most relevant to the death of an incumbent pope have been dropped and some added.
Pope Emeritus Benedict has said he wants a simple burial, and will ultimately mirror the burial of all Catholics: a requiem mass with the delivery and blessing of the remains, followed by a burial.
There is currently no major mourning in Rome, perhaps a testament to the long life, short tenure and staunchly conservative views of Pope Emeritus Benedict.
The numbers marching into the basilica have so far exceeded the estimates of the city authorities, which represent the most devout Catholics who have a true devotion to Benedict, to the curious tourists who absorb this historic moment.
The opportunity to see the Pope Emeritus reclining in state closes tonight before today’s funeral mass at 9.30am local time (8.30am Irish time).
It concludes with the remains of the Pope emeritus being taken to the caves beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, where his coffin is placed in a zinc coffin and then in a wooden chest and buried.
He is buried in the tomb where John Paul II was buried before his beatification, a man with whom Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has worked with at the Vatican for almost a quarter of a century.
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