Thousands flock to Vatican as Pope Benedict XVI lying in state begins

Former Pope Benedict XVI dies aged 95

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Thousands of mourners have queued up to view Pope Benedict XVI ‘s body lying in state in St. Peter’s Basilica. Many waited for hours in wet weather conditions before the doors to the basilica were swung open to the public. Security officials expected at least 25,000 people to pass by the body on the first day of viewing. The former Pope died on Saturday aged 95 in the Vatican monastery where he had lived since his retirement in 2013.

Public viewing of Pope Benedict lying in state lasts for 10 hours today in St. Peter’s Basilica today, with 12 hours of viewing scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Benedict’s funeral will then take place at St. Peter’s Square on Thursday morning and be presided over by Pope Francis.

Filippo Tuccio, 35, travelled from Venice on an overnight train to view Benedict’s body.

He said: “I wanted to pay homage to Benedict because he had a key role in my life and my education. I arrived here at around 7:30, after leaving Venice last night.

Mr Tuccio added he had studied theology, and “his pontificate accompanied me during my university years”

The pilgrim continued: “He was very important for me: for what I am, my way of thinking, my values. This is why I wanted to say goodbye today.”

On Sunday, the Vatican had released photographs of Pope Benedict lying in state in the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City – hours before the thousands of people are able to pay their own respects.

He was seen wearing red liturgical vestments and has a miter on his head while holding a rosary in his hands. The pictures also showed the late Pope wearing the shoes instead of the sandals he had chosen as his favourite footwear since he became Pope Emeritus.

Behind him, visible in the photos released by the Vatican, was the chapel’s altar and a decorated Christmas tree.

Benedict’s body remained in the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae monastery. No officials visits to see his body, or public prayers, had been held.

Early this morning, his body was be moved to St. Peter’s Basilica, where thousands of well-wishers are now viewing his body.

Benedict’s funeral will then take place on Thursday at 9.30am local time in St. Peter’s Square, in front of the basilica, and be presided over by Pope Francis.

Normally, heads of state from around the world attend papal funerals, but the Vatican has said official delegations will come only from Italy and from Benedict’s native Germany.

This suggests the funeral will possibly be a low-key event, while diplomats have been told representatives from other countries or organisations can attend in a private capacity.

Following the funeral on Thursday, Benedict’s body will be taken back inside St. Peter’s Basilica and buried in the Vatican Grottoes, beneath the church.

On Sunday during New Year’s Day appearances, Pope Francis prayed for his predecessor’s passage to heaven and again expressed thanks for a lifetime of service to the church.

The current Pope sat with his head bowed as Mass began on the first day of 2023, an occasion the Catholic Church dedicates to the theme of peace.

Francis said: “Today we entrust to our Blessed Mother our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, so that she may accompany him in his passage from this world to God.”

Later, he delivered more remarks about the late pontiff as he offered New Year’s greetings to thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Speaking from a window of the Apostolic Palace to pilgrims and tourists below, Francis referred to Mary and said: “In these hours, we invoke her intercession, in particular for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who, yesterday morning, left this world.”

He added: “Let us unite all together, with one heart and one soul, in giving thanks to God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the church.”


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