Benedict XVI buried in Vatican crypt

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI was laid to rest in a vault beneath the Vatican after a service led by Pope Francis and attended by 50,000 people including heads of government and royal guests.

The Vatican estimates than 200,000 people had attended the three-day vigil for the 95-year-old, who had announced his retirement from office in 2013.

Francis made only fleeting reference to Benedict in his homily, offering a meditation on Christ instead of a eulogy of his predecessor's legacy before the casket was sealed and entombed in the basilica grotto.

“Holding fast to the Lord’s last words and to the witness of his entire life, we too, as an ecclesial community, want to follow in his steps and to commend our brother into the hands of the Father,” Francis said.

Many mourners hailed from Benedict’s native Bavaria and donned traditional dress, including coats to guard against the morning chill.

The former Joseph Ratzinger, who died on December 31st, is considered one of the 20th century’s greatest theologians and spent his lifetime upholding church doctrine. But he will go down in history for a singular, revolutionary act that changed the future of the papacy.

Francis has praised Benedict’s courage in stepping aside.

A choir's hymn echoed in the crypt as the casket was lowered into the ground, featuring Benedict's papal coat of arms, a cross and a plaque noting in Latin that it contained his body: “Corpus Benedicti XVI PM," for “pontifex maximus” or “supreme pontiff.”

While Thursday's Mass was unusual, it does have some precedent: In 1802, Pope Pius VII presided over the funeral in St. Peter’s of his predecessor, Pius VI, who had died in exile in France in 1799 as a prisoner of Napoleon.