Church bells rang Sunday in the Old City of Jerusalem, where Catholic faithful mourned the disappearance of their "great" pope, the former sovereign pontiff Benedict XVI.
Standing in front of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, built according to Christian tradition on the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected, Matteo Sassano, a 33-year-old Italian seminarian, says he prayed for the memory of the late pope , died Saturday, December 31 at the age of 95.
"He was a great pope (...) and a great companion of Pope Francis," he said, about Benedict XVI who had announced that he would resign from his office in 2013 because of his declining strength.
His death in the monastery where he had retired, in the heart of the Vatican gardens, put an end to a period during which he lived close to his successor within the walls of the Holy See.
After his death, the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, called on all priests to celebrate a mass in memory of Benedict XVI.
“(We) ask all churches and monasteries to ring the bells, as is our tradition. We also ask all priests to celebrate a Holy Mass for the repose of his soul. May the Lord grant him eternal rest! “said the Latin patriarch.
The Holy Land and Jerusalem welcome thousands of Catholic pilgrims every year.
For Veronica Orzelek, a 23-year-old Polish woman, the former German pontiff was "an emblematic figure" in Poland and there is no doubt that his compatriots mourn his death.
He was a "man of peace," Don Faller, 65, told AFP.
However, this American pilgrim said that he was “more or less in agreement” with the traditionalist approach of Benedict XVI, which had earned him criticism within the Church itself.
According to him, he was "in the continuity of old-fashioned Catholicism, therefore very conservative".
In 2009, Benedict XVI traveled to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, three places with sacred Christian sites, during a historic visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed that Benedict XVI “was a true friend of the State of Israel and of the Jewish people”.
“He was a great spiritual leader, wholeheartedly committed to the historic reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world,” he said in a statement.
For his part, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the position of Benedict XVI who “supported the freedom and independence of the Palestinian people”.
In the heart of the Old City, the chanting of the priests crosses the forecourt of the Holy Sepulcher where Matteo Sassano evoked the late pope. “We will accompany him in prayers. »
On Twitter, Pope Francis paid tribute to his predecessor. He salutes the memory of a person “so noble, so kind”. "God alone knows the value and the strength of his intercession, of his sacrifices offered for the good of the Church", underlines the pontiff.
- Pope Francis (@Pontifex_fr) December 31, 2022
Pope Francis will preside over the funeral of Benedict XVI on Thursday, January 5, in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican at 09:30 a.m., the director of the Holy See's press service announced on Saturday shortly after the former pope's death.
Benedict XVI's body will be on display at St. Peter's Basilica from Monday, Matteo Bruni also confirmed during a press conference, adding that Joseph Ratzinger had received extreme unction - or sacrament of the sick - shortly before his death. dead.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)