The Pope prayed silently for 20 minutes and laid a bouquet of white roses beside the coffin of Miriam Wuolou, the 34-year-old receptionist who was found dead at her flat on the outskirts of Rome last week.
Ms Wuolou, who worked at the Pope’s residence, Domus Santa Marta, and greeted the Pope daily, was an Eritrean-born Italian citizen who was seven months pregnant. She is believed to have died from a diabetes-induced coma.
She was found by her brother who went to visit after failing to hear from her for several days.
The funeral was held on Saturday 27 February in the Church of St Stephen of the Abyssinians, located in the Vatican grounds.
The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi SJ, said the Pope had great respect and affection for Miriam. He said: “We are all pained by this news.”
Pope Francis chose to live at the humble guest house Santa Marta rather than the usual papal residence at the Apostolic Palace when he was elected head of the Church. Ms Wuolou had worked there for several years.
The police do not suspect foul play; Miriam’s body showed no signs of violence at the first examination.