VATICAN CITY — As thousands of Roman Catholics flowed into St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday morning to see Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lie in state and pay their last respects, bereft conservatives mourned the loss of a leader who championed the traditions, doctrines and church law and order they cherished.
“He was the sun that illuminated all of us,” said Cardinal Angelo Amato, a former secretary of the church office on doctrine, which Benedict ran before becoming pope, and leader of the Vatican office that makes saints. He referred to Benedict as “the Holy Father,” and called him a “saint,” adding, “When there is no sun, there is only fog.”
Benedict, who died on Saturday at age 95, stood as the church’s pre-eminent conservative thinker and leader in the decades preceding, during and following his pontificate, which ended in 2013 when he stunningly broke with church tradition by becoming the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign. Pope Francis, his successor, has a less orthodox vision, infuriating conservatives who accuse him of causing confusion as he undid a great deal of Benedict’s legacy by firing and stripping of authority some of Benedict’s top cardinals.
Francis told priests and bishops to be welcoming to Catholics who had divorced and remarried, said of an allegedly gay priest “Who am I to judge?” and restricted the Latin Mass adored by traditionalists. He has expressed openness to same-sex unions, welcomed a debate on the ordination of a limited number of married men as priests and shrugged at the potential for a schism, or break with Rome by the hard right.
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