By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
An Irish woman who gave a reading at the funeral of the former pope Benedict XVI has said it was an honour.
Thousands of mourners gathered in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Thursday for the rare event of a requiem Mass for a dead pontiff, presided over by a living one, Pope Francis.
Mary Maguire, from Letterkenny in Co Donegal, said she got “such a shock” after being asked on Monday morning to give a reading at the papal funeral.
She was asked to participate by Monsignor Kevin Gillespie, a senior administrator with the Diocese of Raphoe, who had previously worked in Rome.
“I just had so much joy in my heart afterwards, real, real joy. Although it’s a sad occasion, I just felt so much joy and (it’s) an honour to be here,” she told RTÉ News.
“To be reading today, if you were given a choice of readings, it’s certainly the one that you would want … And that was a beautiful reading today to do that to the whole world.”
The reading was from the first letter of St Peter, which speaks of a “new birth into a living hope”, an eternal life that “can never perish, spoil or fade”.
Ms Maguire added: “Strangely enough, nerves didn’t get to me this morning at all.
“I was so calm, so unreal for me because I normally would be a nervous person. And I didn’t look down at the crowd when I went to pick up the reading.
“I just kept focused on my reading and I didn’t think past where I was and what I was doing.”
The Vatican said some 50,000 people attended the Mass, after around 200,000 had paid their respects during three days of public viewing.
Benedict – formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and native of the German state of Bavaria – died on December 31st aged 95, and made history in becoming the first pope in six centuries to retire from the role.