Before his funeral, former pope Benedict XVI will lie in state for three days at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, where thousands of Catholics will pay their respects.
Before the sun came up, a line formed in the square in front of the Basilica, where Benedict’s body had earlier been taken after his passing on Saturday at the age of 95 from the monastery on the premises of the Vatican.
“I arrived at 6:00 am. It seemed normal to come and pay homage to him after all he did for the church,” said an Italian nun, sister Anna-Maria, who was in the early morning queue.
Before becoming the first pope in six centuries to resign in 2013, Benedict oversaw the Catholic Church for eight years, citing his deteriorating physical health.
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On Thursday, his successor, Pope Francis, will preside over the funeral before his remains are interred in the crypt under the Basilica. German theologian Benedict passed away at the Mater Ecclesiae convent, where he had lived for the previous ten years.
The Vatican published images of his corpse on a catafalque in the abbey church on Sunday. He was draped in red papal mourning garments and had a gold-edged miter on his head.
Starting on Monday at 9:00 am (0800 GMT), the general public can pay their respects at St. Peter’s Basilica. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they can do so as well. The unprecedented circumstance of having two “men in white” at the Vatican, namely him and Francis, resulted from Benedict’s shocking resignation. His funeral will make history as well.
Usually, when a pope passes away, a conclave of cardinals is called to pick a new pope, but Francis is still in office and will preside over the meeting this time. The Vatican has stated that Benedict’s burial will be “solemn but simple” and that he will be buried in the papal mausoleum under St. Peter’s Basilica.
Besides stating that delegations from Italy and Benedict’s native Germany will be present, the Vatican has not yet disclosed any other information on the guest list.
Although Benedict was a more controversial figure, a million faithful and heads of state from all over the world attended John Paul II’s last papal funeral in 2005.
Although he was a great theologian, his steadfast defense of traditional values alienated many Catholics. He also struggled as a pope to assert his power over the church as it confronted several problems, including clerical s*x abuse.
His replacement, an Argentine Jesuit who is most at home among his sheep and has worked to create a more compassionate church, cuts a pretty different picture.
Pope Francis paid tribute to Benedict in three New Year’s events at the Vatican over the weekend, “thanking God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and the Church.”
Francis, 86, has hinted that if he could not perform his duties, he might follow Benedict’s lead and resign.
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In July, after being forced to use a wheelchair due to knee difficulties, he acknowledged that he needed to slow down or consider moving to the side.
Francis stated last month that he had signed a letter of resignation when he assumed office in case his health prevented him from performing his duties.
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