Pope wants his funeral to be celebrated

<p>Pope Francis <em>(Photo from ANSA) </em></p>

Pope Francis (Photo from ANSA) 

ROME – Pope Francis has said how he would like his funeral to be eventually celebrated in a book of interviews with the Catican correspondent of Spanish newspaper ABC.

He said that he would have a coffin but no catafalque for the funeral rites.

The 86-year-old Argentine pontiff, who has had a string of minor health issues lately and who uses a wheelchair due to bad knees, said he wanted to be buried "with dignity like every Christian," speaking in the interview-book "El Sucesor" by Javier Martinez-Brocal.

Recalling the funeral of his predecessor Benedict XVI in January last year, Francis said: "it will be the last wake celebrated like that, with the pope's body on show outside the coffin, on a catafalque."

"I have spoken with the master of ceremonies and we have eliminated this and many other things, because the ritual was too overloaded," he added.

The Pope confirmed that he had already issued instructions that he will be interred in St Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) Basilica, unlike his predecessors who have all been buried in St Peter's.

He said he wanted to be laid to rest "in a room where they keep the candelabras."

"That's the place, they've confirmed to me that everything is ready," he told Martinez-Brocal.

Francis said the Marian Basilica has been dear to him since before he became pope in 2013.

He said he often used to go there and pray when he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Buenos Aires, before being elected after Benedict's shock resignation.

On Feb. 11, 2013, Benedict announced his resignation (effective February 28, 2013), citing "lack of strength of mind and body" due to his advanced age.

His resignation was the first by a pope since Gregory XII in 1415, and the first on a pope's initiative since Celestine V in 1294.

Francis then went on to recount an anecdote: on one occasion in Santa Maria Maggiore, a man tried to swindle him by selling him a watch.

"From pure instinct I told him I didn't have any money with me, and I was later told that if I had taken out my wallet he would have given me a slap and would have stolen it." (ANSA)