ROME, (WWLP) – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s funeral mass takes place at St. Peter’s Square Thursday, with Pope Francis serving as celebrant. Thousands of people flocked to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome this week to pay their final respects ahead of Benedict’s funeral.

The mass will be a typical papal funeral mass with only a few changes, though Benedict was not the reigning pope at the time of his death. It is scheduled to begin at 9:30AM Rome time in St. Peter’s Square.

“I think it’s really safe to say it’s the first time that a pope is being buried by another pope in this way. We’re witnessing really a unique moment in history,” Bishop William Byrne, Diocese of Springfield told 22News.

Public viewing of Pope Benedict’s body ends Wednesday evening and he’ll be placed into a traditional cypress casket. After the funeral, his burial in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica, where other popes are buried, will be private.

Bishop Bryne said that he will be celebrating mass at 12:10 p.m. Thursday at the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in Springfield to offer up prayers for Pope Benedict.