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Pope Francis rang in 2023 with prayers for his late predecessor at a special New Year’s Day mass.

Francis delivered the prayers during his homily at St. Peter’s Basilica, where Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s will lie in state for three days beginning on Monday.

Benedict, 95, died in retirement on New Year’s Eve at the Vatican, after becoming the first pope in some six centuries to step down from the papacy in 2013.

“Today we entrust to our Blessed Mother our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, so that she may accompany him in his passage from this world to God,” Francis said.

The 86-year-old pope will preside over Benedict’s funeral mass at the basilica on Thursday — a rare spectacle because the death of a pope usually kickstarts the process of choosing a new church leader in a papal conclave.

Francis addresses his flock from a wheelchair at mass
Pope Francis will preside over Benedict’s funeral mass Thursday, marking an unprecedented event in modern times.
AP
The dead late pope is seen resting
The late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is laid out in state Sunday in the chapel of the monastery ‘Mater Ecclesiae’ where he mostly lived after retiring in 2013.
AP

Francis arrived at mass in a wheelchair as he grappled with knee pain. The pontiff appeared weary a day after mourning Benedict at his monastery following his death.

The pope had grieved for “quite some time” at Benedict’s home, according to Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni.

Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square,.
Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023.
AP

Francis had applauded Benedict’s 2013 retirement due to frailty, and has said he would also consider the rare papal maneuver for himself.

The first mass of the year in Vatican City was celebrated by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the country’s secretary of state. It’s theme was hope and peace, per Catholic church tradition.

“At the beginning of this year, we need hope, just as the Earth needs rain,” Francis said during his homily as he decried the Russia’s war in Ukraine and prayed for its victims.

With AP wires

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