“In one way it was a very straightforward celebration of a Funeral Mass as would take place at the death
of any Catholic in any parish church. And yet in another way it was a uniquely historical event and an event of great emotional depth and stature.
“I think we can say it’s the first time [in over 200 years] that a pope has buried a pope who has just died and in that sense there was a uniqueness to it. But I think it was also a moment in which, for me certainly, there was a heightened sense of loss – a sense of my own sadness that Benedict is no longer with us in person. At the same time the ceremony was an unshakable expression of faith and trust in the promises of Jesus. So we had both sadness and hope, we had the grief of loss and the certainty of faith.
“There were some words used in one of the prayers that appealed to me, particularly, and it was an appeal to Mary Salus Populi Romani, that she would intercede that Benedict would now see the face of Jesus and that we would be comforted on our pilgrim way.
“Those words touched me because I reflected on how much Benedict, his life and his spirituality, was focused on a relationship with Jesus. Those books that he wrote about Jesus of Nazareth in some ways summed up not only his learning but also his spirituality and his prayer.
“The other day, Archbishop Gänswein, who knows him better than anybody did, was saying that it was that image of Jesus always accompanying the Church, always being with the Church, that was the most radically fundamental thing in Pope Benedict’s life.
“And I was thinking of the time when I was in St Peter Square when he gave his last homily as serving Pope before he left for Castel Gandolfo. In that homily, he used the image of Jesus asleep in the back of the boat when the storm came on the Sea of Galilee and the disciples were frightened.”
Archbishop Gänswein repeated that and gave a little gloss on it. He said, “Benedict used to say, ‘but now Jesus never sleeps and he’s always with us’.”
So during the Mass I was thinking about those things and, quite simply, how lovable Benedict was and therefore thanking God for the gifts that He gave us through him.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Vatican, 5 January 2023