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Thousands of faithful bid farewell to Pope Benedict XVI

Thousands of faithful bid farewell this Thursday in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died last December 31.

Pope Francis arrived around 9:20 a.m., in a wheelchair, and took his place in the box, starting the funeral celebration, concelebrated by some 130 cardinals, 400 bishops and almost 3,700 priests.

After the Mass, led by Pope Francis, the coffin was taken to the grottoes of the basilica for burial in the tomb of John Paul II.

Heads of state and royalty, clergy from around the world and thousands of faithful flocked to the Vatican despite the emeritus pope's pleas for a simple farewell and the Holy See's efforts to make the first funeral of an emeritus pope in modern times discreet.

Information on the number of people attending the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI sparked a controversy over the massiveness of the event. While the first information from the Rome Police had estimated that at least 100,000 faithful had arrived in St. Peter's Square, the numbers of the Vatican gendarmerie showed a significant decrease with about 50,000 attendees, that is, half the number.

The celebration was calm, brief and without inconveniences. It was not as crowded as other papal funerals, such as those of Pope John Paul II, which were attended by about 200,000 faithful.

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