Rorate Caeli

The Funeral Rites of Benedict XVI and the Many Petty Gestures of Francis

 Francis’ Petty Heart

Caminante Wanderer

Argentina, January 5, 2023

Mediocre people surround themselves with ones even more mediocre than themselves in order to be able to manage them as they please and conceal their own mediocrity. This is what Bergoglio did as soon as he took over the papal throne. And it has been demonstrated for the umpteenth time with the death of Pope Benedict XVI. 

I summarize here some of the events of the last few days, mostly anecdotal, but which reveal the mean and petty soul of Pope Francis. Some are public; others, on the other hand, were confided to me by discreet sources who walk the corridors of the Sacred Palace:

- Even before the news of Benedict XVI's death became known, the orders had already gone out from Santa Marta: in the Vatican work would continue as usual. In other words, "nothing happened here". Those who work at the Holy See - clerics and lay people - made it known that if their activities were not suspended in order to be able to attend at least the funeral Mass, they would take the day off. Santa Marta then had to compromise: they would be allowed to attend the Mass but only until 1 pm. After that, they were to return to work. 

- Neither in Vatican City, nor in its extraterritorial dependencies nor in its nunciatures was official mourning declared. The bells did not toll and flags were not flown at half-mast. This last detail came as a great surprise. Any country has this measure of mourning when a relatively important person dies. For the Vatican and the court of Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI was not. Curiously, the Italian state and Great Britain ordered their flags to be flown at half-mast on December 31. 

- It was repeated again and again in the sacred palaces, that the order was for things to go on as if nothing had happened. For this very reason, on Wednesday, Pope Francis held his general audience as usual, while a few meters away was the unburied body of his predecessor. And he barely made a reference to him to call him "a great master of catechesis". 

- Many cardinals and bishops were disappointed for not being able to be part of the procession that moved the remains of the deceased pope from the Mater Ecclesiae monastery to St. Peter's Basilica. In any country, in any monarchy, this procession has a particular and austere solemnity, even when it is not the death of the reigning monarch (remember the case of Don Juan de Borbón, or the Queen Mother of England or Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh). The mortal remains of Benedict XVI were transported in a gray van. Neither Francis nor the Cardinal Vicar presided over the procession. Georg Gänswein and the memores, the women who assisted them in recent years. In the curia, this went down very badly: "This is not done even to any man from the smallest village in Italy," they said.

- One of the things that most attracted the attention of the members of the Pontifical Household and other Curial offices who were walking around the funeral chapel was the number of young priests -several hundred- who came to bid farewell to Pope Benedict dressed in cassock. One of them, in a low voice, commented the following: "I met Pope Benedict when I was a seminarian, along with the rest of my classmates. The words he told us again and again were: 'Study hard and pray a lot. It was unthinkable that he would tell us: 'Priests are men, and that is why many of them look at pornography' (these last words were Pope Francis' recent comments to the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Barcelona). 

- In the same vein, the number of young people and families with children who came to see Pope Benedict off was very striking. 

- One of the things that most annoyed the bishops and cardinals present was the indolent attitude of Cardinal Gambetti, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica. His cold and mechanical attitude in the celebration of the rites (and the voice of a man just out of bed that could be heard), and his lack of obedience of many rubrics did not go unnoticed. Also repulsive was the presence of Ettore Valzania, a dental mechanic by profession, whom the same cardinal appointed as manager of the basilica, who walked around inside the basilica during the three days wearing jeans while receiving cardinals and heads of state. This obscure and vulgar character has been responsible, among other things, for arranging that the faithful could stop for no more than two or three seconds before the body of the deceased pope, without even being able to say a prayer before him. Would it not have been possible, for example, to extend the opening hours of St. Peter's Basilica?

- Pope Francis was determined to retire to his quarters in Santa Marta as soon as the funeral Mass was over. Two of his closest collaborators had to insist a lot in order to make him see the inconvenience of the gesture. Finally, he agreed to say goodbye to Pope Benedict's coffin in the atrium of St. Peter's Basilica, stripped of his pontifical vestments. And he flatly refused to accompany the cortege to the crypt and celebrate the last rites there, which were assumed by Cardinal Re, dean of the Sacred College.

- A good part of the bishops and cardinals from all over the world who came to bid farewell to the Pope Emeritus were astonished -and they made this known to their relatives- by the indolence of the gestures and words of Pope Francis with respect to his predecessor. One of them commented: "To feed souls and not mouths, that is the mission of the Church".

- As soon as the death of Benedict XVI was known, Santa Marta hastened to say that due to a dubious will of the deceased, only official delegations from Italy and Germany would attend. The problem came on Wednesday when the Secretariat of State discovered with astonishment that many delegations from the governments of various countries would be attending in a personal capacity. Such was the unexpectedness of the news that only late that day the Governatorato gave the order to the respective officials to provide parking spaces for the official vehicles that would be transporting the heads of state and ministers.

- The Secretariat of State officially communicated to the countries sending delegations that their representatives should refrain from wearing formal attire. This caused surprise, since even in the case of cardinals' funerals this type of dress is used. Even these honors were denied to Pope Ratzinger. 

- We know the cloth from which journalists are made, but a few still retain a certain honesty. The narrative that ran through newsrooms around the world, and the Holy See press room itself, was that Pope Benedict was always a distant pontiff, hated or indifferent to the Christian people. Many of them acknowledged in a low voice the mistaken judgment they held when they saw the enormous and surprising amount of people who came to St. Peter's Basilica during the last few days. In fact, the number of chairs that filled St. Peter's Square for the funeral Mass had only been equaled at the inaugural Mass of Francis' pontificate, "when people still hadn’t got to know them," added some malicious bishop. 

The face of Pope Francis during the funeral Mass, which illustrates this article, is sufficiently eloquent of the darkness of his soul: he seems to be attending his own funeral.