The outpouring of support and devotion to Pope Benedict XVI, Vicarius Christi of the Catholic Church (April 19 2005- 31 December 2022), has been massive. The Vatican has been surprised and overwhelmed by the large number of faithful coming to see the deceased pope.
His death was mourned by heads of state and government around the world the day he died. In no way was he treated as irrelevant or a has been. Only fringe Far Left dissident voices calling themselves Catholic have shamelessly chosen Benedict’s death as the moment to attack him.
Yet honestly, Pope Benedict XVI seems to have died at exactly the right time. Had he died a year sooner, his legacy may not have been nearly as consolidated.
The Far Left German bishops tried to accuse him of having covered up abuse based on opinions expressed in the Munich rapport ordered by Reinhard Marx. Yet Benedict XVI had the accusations refuted in detail with facts cited in a counter report and even Leftist prelates came out to defend Benedict along with Francis himself while most German bishops basically accepted Benedict’s defense.
As such, during the months before his death, Benedict XVI’s reputation as the man who cracked down on abuse was secured within the Church and his hermeneutic of continuity was suddenly being praised by Pope Francis.
While Francis has tried to claim that his restriction of the old mass were because Benedict had merely tried to be pastoral in the name of unity and that Traditionalists had abused this, the double reveal that Benedict XVI sent letters of support to the FSSP after Francis issued Traditionis Custodes and that he was heartbroken by Custodes (according to Ganswein), radically undermine this claim. This will make the still very beloved and praised by Francis Benedict a symbol for the continued defense of the old Latin mass.
Cardinal Zen has already spoken of Francis serving as an intercessor in Heaven for Chinese Catholics. It’s hard not to take this as framing Benedict XVI as a saint who supports the underground church which is being persecuted by the Communists whom Francis is still trying to work with. Zen will even be attending the funeral. This might further lead to sympathy for Benedict XVI being channeled for a vision of the Church ever so subtly opposed to Francis. Considering how the likely Francis 2.0 candidate, Cardinal Tagle, recently defended the China deal, just before China violated it, Zen might further stir the next conclave rightward.
African bishops have praised his role in evangelization (a topic Francis and his allies have focused completely around him) and also his Conservative moral stances including regarding condoms.
His final testament perfectly fitted into his trend. Slowly throughout the last year and now explosively after Benedict’s death, his Conservative legacy is being praised and defended with Modernist attempts to water down or obscure Benedict’s legacy scattered and ineffective.
De facto it is being more clearly defined what lines Francis can’t cross without betraying the legacy of the now very recently deceased pontiff.
Finally, the funeral just might be the perfect opportunity for the many new cardinals to finally meet each other as well as the old cardinals. For many years Francis has prevented the new cardinals from coming together and getting to know each other. It has been said he fears them forming factions against him (apparently he cannot even trust many of the cardinals he himself appointed).
It will be hard to control the cardinals who are simply there for the funeral and not a Francis project. They may very well see this as a chance to meet and (further) work out succession ideas for after the ailing Argentinian vacates the office.