After the death of Josef Ratzinger, the late pope emeritus who took the name Benedict XVI, his former German archdiocese of Munich and Freising plans to bid him farewell with a requiem on Tuesday evening.
The former pontiff died on Saturday morning in the Vatican at the age of 95 after it emerged that his health had deteriorated.
German-born Benedict XVI was the head of the Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013, when, after just under eight years as pope, he voluntarily resigned, becoming the first pope to do so in hundreds of years.
He cited his frailty, saying he lacked the strength for such a demanding job. His resignation may ultimately pave the way for future pontiffs to resign due to poor health.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982. The current incumbent, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, is expected to celebrate the service for his predecessor in Munich’s Cathedral of Our Lady, or Liebfrauendom.
According to diocesan information, a memorial site has also been set up there where people can commemorate the late pope emeritus. Such places also exist in Freising’s St Mary’s Cathedral and in the parish church of St Oswald in Traunstein, the church where Ratzinger celebrated his first Mass after his ordination in 1951.
Ratzinger’s time as archbishop has been overshadowed by accusations that he did not handle abuse cases appropriately. During his tenure, for example, a repeat offender priest was transferred from the western German state of North Rhine Westphalia to the Munich archdiocese, as emerged from the abuse report for the diocese presented just under a year ago.
Ratzinger denied accusations during his lifetime that he had known about the man’s crimes. The fact that he had to subsequently correct false statements that he had not attended a meeting dealing with the man made headlines worldwide.
Ratzinger’s role in dealing with the repeat offender is now also an issue for the judiciary. A civil action against Ratzinger is pending at the Traunstein Regional Court. An alleged victim of the priest, identified under German privacy laws as Priest H, has sued him and other responsible persons from the archdiocese. The plaintiff assumes that cases were covered up.
The proceedings will continue even after Ratzinger’s death, a court spokesperson confirmed on Monday. As soon as the former pope’s heirs are known, the case will be continued against them.
Benedict XVI is lying in state in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome after his death on New Year’s Eve. Funeral Masses are planned in several German dioceses.
His funeral service is set to take place in St Peter’s Square on Thursday morning, followed by the burial in the basilica.
In Germany, bells are due to be rung nationwide for the former pontiff in line with a recommendation from the Bishops’ Conference to the 27 Catholic dioceses.
Meanwhile, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) has ordered mourning flags for all official buildings under the supervision of the state for the day.