Military honor, public mass in final farewell to former French president Chirac

At a national ceremony led by French President Emmanuel Macron, France on Monday mourned former president Jacques Chirac, bidding a final farewell at Les Invalides museum and the church of Saint Sulpice in Paris.

As a band played Chopin’s Funeral March, French Republican guards carried out Chirac’s flag-draped casket in the courtyard of the Hotel des Invalides where he had been lying in state over the weekend to allow the public to pay the last homage.

Macron inspected the troops and bowed his head in respect to the former leader.

A coffin bearing the body of Chirac, who died last week at 86, was later taken in a procession to the church of Saint Sulpice, where a high-profile gathering attended the public mass.

About 80 heads of state and government joined the former president’s family in the final memorial service. Among them are Russian President Vladimir Putin, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Other leaders at the funeral ceremony included European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, as well as former U.S. president Bill Clinton and others.

Along with the government officials and the country’s political class, Chirac’s successors Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande also took part in the ceremony.

Over the weekend, thousands of French people, queued outside the Hotel des Invalides where Chirac’s coffin lied to allow the public to pay their last respect. A massive crowd also lined up at the Elysee Palace and the City Hall in Paris to sign books of condolences.

Chirac was a two-term president from 1995 to 2007.Under his leadership, France entered into the single-currency European bloc and shortened the presidential term of office from seven to five years via a referendum in 2000. On international stage, he was remembered as a statesman who defended peace notably by opposing the Iraqi war in 2003.

He also served twice as prime minister.

After he left the Elysee Palace in 2007, Chirac was reportedly hospitalized several times following a stroke and lung infection, and was rarely seen in public.

Chirac will be buried at the Montparnasse cemetery in southern Paris, next to his daughter Laurence who died in 2016.