Former pope Benedict XVI lies in state at St Peter’s Basilica

Vatican City, Jan 2 (EFE).- Hundreds of people have been waiting in line to pay their respects to former pope Benedict XVI, whose body is lying in state for three days from Monday at St Peter’s Basilica ahead of his funeral.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died on Saturday, December 31 at the age of 95, after leading the Catholic Church for eight years and stepping down due to ill health in 2013.

His mortal remains will be displayed in an open casket until 7:00 PM (6:00 PM GMT) every day until Wednesday at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Benedict’s body was transferred to St Peter’s Basilica from the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, where the pope emeritus resided since his historic resignation.

Pope Francis will preside over Benedict’s funeral Mass in the Vatican square on Thursday morning before the Pope Emeritus is laid to rest in the tombs under the Basilica.

Before the basilica opened its doors to the faithful, a private liturgy was held with the cardinals and those closest to the pontiff and Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni.

Security has been ramped up in the Italian capital with over 1,000 police officers and the closure of airspace over Saint Peter’s Square.

“Our objective is to guarantee the safety of those who wish to pay their respects,” Rome prefect, Bruno Frattasi, said in a statement.

Some 35,000 people are expected to pay their respects to former pope Benedict XVI, while up to 60,000 will attend his funeral.

Over the next three days, several mobile medical units and ambulances have been deployed to the Vatican, as well as 500 Civil Protection volunteers.

Hundreds of people were already lining up at dawn on Monday to bid their final farewells to the former pontiff.

Efe spoke to a group of priests from India who had gotten up early to say goodbye to what they consider to be the greatest theologian in recent centuries after Saint Augustine.

The group told Efe they had “studied all of his texts” and said they had “great admiration for Ratzinger as a great theologian.”

Born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927, the former pontiff had been living surrounded by his Vatican “family”, made up of his secretary, a doctor, a nurse and four consecrated laywomen, who shared the household chores and took care of the needs of the former pope.

Since stepping down nine years ago, Benedict XVI had largely withdrawn from public life, although on rare occasions he spoke out about certain issues that affected his time as pontiff.

For example, in February this year, he asked forgiveness for the mistakes committed during his tenures in the various offices he held, after a report found he was aware of allegations of child sexual abuse in Germany during his time as archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.

“I can only express to all victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness. I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate,” he had said in a statement.

“The victims of sexual abuse have my deepest sympathy and I feel great sorrow for each individual case.”

He only rarely left the Vatican walls in his final years: once to visit his ailing brother, Georg, in the hospital and in June 2020 when he traveled to Germany to see him again a few weeks before he died at the age of 95. EFE


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