Vatican City, Jan 3 (EFE).- St. Peter’s Basilica opened again Tuesday for the public to say their final farewells to former pope Benedict XVI ahead of the funeral mass later in the week
On Monday, around 65,000 people said their goodbyes to Benedict, who in 2013 became the first pope to resign in 600 years and died Saturday at the age of 95.
Thousands of faithful had been waiting hours to enter the basilica and a few minutes after 7 am (06:00 GMT) the doors opened. They will close at 7 pm.
Benedict will lie in state until Wednesday, and Pope Francis will hold his general audience in the nearby Paul VI Hall, since none of his activities have been canceled.
Thursday’s funeral will be presided over by Francis but will not be a state funeral, as Benedict was not a reigning pontiff, although official delegations from Italy and the former pontiff’s native Germany will attend, and other authorities may attend but must do so in their personal capacity.
Nothing has yet been confirmed about the rites, which may have some variations due to the emeritus status of Benedict XVI, but some sources say that Francis wishes to pay homage to his predecessor with all the honors, and that it is possible that the coffin goes through the Door of the Dead, one of the five doors of St. Peter’s Basilica that the coffins of the popes pass through.
The emeritus queen of Spain, Sofía has confirmed her presence, as has Spain’s Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and King Philippe of Belgium.
Afterwards, the body of Benedict XVI will be interred in the Vatican crypt at the spot that housed the remains of John Paul II, but which has been empty since his coffin was transferred to the upper part of St. Peter’s Basilica ahead of his beatification in May 2011. EFE