Benedict XVI: Thousands flock to the Vatican to pay their respects to the late Pope
Thousands of people began paying their respects to former Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
Benedict XVI died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95, almost a decade after retiring due to ill health.
Pope Francis will preside over Thursday’s funeral, the first time a pope has officiated at his predecessor’s funeral.
By daybreak in the Vatican, the depositors were already queuing in front of the Vatican in St. Peter’s Square.
The first to wait was Father Alfredo Elnar, 30, from the Philippines. He said he had studied and admired the former pope’s theological writings and spoke of the void left by his death.
Standing in the queue was Sister Marijana Patricevic, a nun from Croatia. She spoke of her gratitude for all that the late Pope had done and said that all the subjects she studied at the university dealt with his views.
Father Richard Kunst, who has traveled from the United States, said that as he takes a farewell look at the pope, he will pray for him, but also for a miracle to help a friend in his country who is dying of cancer.
Benedict XVI retired for health reasons in 2013, becoming the first pope in 600 years.
His body will remain in an open coffin in St. Peter’s Basilica for three days, with people allowed to say goodbye until 7 p.m. each day.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, among others, gave a farewell look before the church opened to the public.
The burial takes place in St. Peter’s Square before the Pope is buried in the tombs below the church.
The Vatican released images of the body on Sunday, dressed in a red papal mourning robe and a hood decorated with gold.
Messages of condolence have been poured in from around the world and the funeral is expected to draw thousands of people.
The funeral of the last pope, that of Pope John Paul II in 2005, was one of the largest Christian gatherings in history, drawing an estimated four million people to Rome.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters Benedict asked that the funeral be easy.
Details of the guest list were not disclosed, but the Vatican said it would include delegations from Italy and Germany, the late pope’s birthplace.
Pope Francis paid homage to his “dear” predecessor after his death.
US President Joe Biden praised the former pope’s “devotion to the Church”, while Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni praised him as a “great man whom history will not forget”.
And in Brazil, the world’s largest Catholic country, the new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said he was asking for “consolation for the faithful and admirers of the Holy Pope.”
Pope Benedict has been a controversial figure, and some have criticized him for failing to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.
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