Public queue to see Benedict XVI for final day before funeral

Vatican City, Jan 4 (EFE).- Wednesday marked the third and final day for the public to see former pope Benedict XVI lying in state as details were being finalized for his Vatican funeral.

Over Monday and Tuesday, around 135,000 people said their goodbyes to the pope emeritus who died on Saturday at the age of 95.

St. Peter’s Basilica reopened at 7 am (06:00 GMT) on Wednesday and hundreds of people began to enter in an orderly fashion, but without the long lines of previous days.

Preparations were being finalized for Thursday’s funeral mass, which is expected to attract a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands.

It will be presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, starting at 9.30 am, but officiated by Cardinal Dean Giovanni Battista Re due to the mobility problems of the Argentinian pontiff.

More than 400 bishops and 4,000 priests are expected for the funeral rites, which are to be almost the same as those of reigning popes, except for some small details due to his emeritus status at the time of death.

As it is not a state funeral, only official delegations from Benedict’s native Germany and Italy have been invited, as well as numerous ecumenical representatives.

So far, Spain’s emeritus queen Sofía and Minister of the Presidency Félix Bolaños have confirmed their presence in a personal capacity, as well as Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki; Hungary’s President Katalin Novàk and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán; Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa; King Philippe of Belgium and Slovenia’s President Nataša Pirc Musar, while France will send Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

After the closing of the gates Wednesday, the cypress wood coffin will be closed, but first, as is tradition, medals and coins minted during his eight years as pope will be placed inside, as well as the pallia used as pontiff and as metropolitan archbishop of Munich and Rome, and a metal tube holding a deed written in Latin describing his pontificate.

The coffin will be taken to the atrium of the basilica on Thursday at 8.45 am for the recitation of the rosary by all the faithful before the start of mass.

Later his coffin will be placed into a zinc coffin and then both will be placed into another made of wood.

Benedict will be laid to rest, as he requested, in the grottoes beneath the basilica, in the tomb where St John Paul II was buried before his beatification. EFE


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