Cardinal Nichols says Pope Benedict’s funeral was “an unshakable expression of faith and trust in the promises of Jesus.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, speaking shortly after the Requiem Mass in St Peter’s Square for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, described the funeral as in one way “a straightforward celebration of a Funeral Mass,” in another way, a uniquely historical event “of great emotional depth and stature.”

The Requiem Mass, presided over by Benedict’s successor Pope Francis, took place on Thursday morning, 5 January, after almost 200,000 pilgrims had paid their final respects to the Pope Emeritus during a period of his lying in state for the previous three days.

Cardinal Nichols said he was collecting his memories of Pope Benedict during the Mass and considered his last homily before retiring as pope. In it, Benedict 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. The Cardinal repeated Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s recollections:

“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.”

“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.”

Listen to Cardinal Nichols full reflection: