Thousands of people have lined up to pay their respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St Peter’s Basilica – where he will lie in state for three days before a ‘simple’ funeral at the Vatican on Thursday.
The doors of the Basilica were swung open just after 9am today so the public, some of whom had waited for hours, could pay their respects to the late pontiff.
The frail 95-year-old died at 9.34am on Saturday in the Vatican monastery – where he had lived since his shock retirement in 2013. He was the first pope to retire from the papacy in 600 years.
His body, dressed in a mitre, the headgear of a bishop, and a red cloak-like vestment in preparation, was placed on a simple dais, with two Swiss guards standing on either side as the faithful walked by.
The body of Pope Benedict on public display at St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, where the public pay their respects
A large queue formed to enter the basilica in order to see Benedict, who was the first pope to retire in 600 years in 2013
Pope Benedict’s body will lie in state in St Peter’s Basilica for public viewing for three days before a ‘simple’ funeral at the Vatican on Thursday
People inside St Peter’s Basilica looking at the body of Pope Benedict, who died at 9.34am on Saturday
Benedict’s body lying in state so the public can come to the basilica and pay their respects to the former pope
By mid-morning the queue to enter the basilica snaked around St Peter’s Square.
Filippo Tuccio, 35, came from Venice on an overnight train to view German-born Benedict’s body.
‘I wanted to pay homage to Benedict because he had a key role in my life and my education. I arrived here at around 7.30am, after leaving Venice last night,’ he said.
‘When I was young I participated in World Youth Days,’ he added, referring to the jamborees of young faithful held periodically and attended by pontiffs.
Mr Tuccio added that he had studied theology and ‘his pontificate accompanied me during my university years’.
‘He was very important for me, for what I am, my way of thinking, my values. This is why I wanted to say goodbye today.’
Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger in Marktl, Germany, will lie in state until Wednesday and his funeral will be held on Thursday in St Peter’s Square, presided over by Pope Francis.
The Vatican has said it will be a simple, solemn and sober ceremony in keeping with his wishes.
The ‘simple’ funeral is in keeping with the wishes of the former pope, who for decades as a German cardinal had served as the Church’s guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy before he was elected pope in 2005.
Papal funerals typically draw heads of state from around the world, but the Vatican has said that official delegations will come only from Italy and from Benedict’s native Germany.
People queued outside the basilica to be allowed to enter and pay their respects to Pope Benedict
By mid-morning the queue to enter the basilica snaked around St Peter’s Square, as people wait to pay tribute to the former pope
Benedict’s body can be viewed during the three days of lying in state and the Vatican has said the funeral on Thursday will be a simple, solemn and sober ceremony in keeping with his wishes
A portrait of the late former pope with a black mourning ribbon on display along with a book of condolence at Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin
Representatives from other countries or organisations can attend in a private capacity, diplomats were told.
A few VIPs had a moment at the basilica before the general public to pay their respects, including Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, the far-right leader who in the past has professed admiration for the conservative leanings of Benedict.
Security officials expected at least 25,000 people to pass by the body on the first day of viewing.
Marina Ferrante, 62, was among them. The Roman arrived an hour before the doors were opened, and grew emotional when she explained why she came.
‘I think his main legacy was teaching us how to be free,’ she said.
‘He had a special intelligence in saying what was essential in his faith and that was contagious’ for other faithful.
‘The thing I thought when he died was that I would like to be as free as he was.’
Mountain Butorac, 47, who is originally from Atlanta but lives in Rome, called the opportunity to view the body ‘an amazing experience.’
Mr Butorac said he arrived 90 minutes before the dawn open and left the basilica a half-hour after it opened.
‘I loved Benedict, I loved him as a cardinal (Joseph Ratzinger), when he was elected pope and also after he retired,’ Butorac said. ‘I think he was a sort of people’s grandfather living in the Vatican.’
Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, the far-right leader who in the past has professed admiration for the conservative leanings of Benedict, paid her respects to the former pope
Ms Meloni was seen paying her respects to Benedict, at St Peter’s Basilica – where he will lie in state for three days
The body of Pope Benedict being transported to the basilica in preparation for three days of his lying in state
Huge queues formed outside the basilica as people came to pay their respects to the former pope
Benedict will lie in state until Wednesday and his funeral will be held on Thursday in St Peter’s Square, presided over by Pope Francis
He came to the Vatican to pray for Benedict when he was ailing, ‘so I wanted to be here today to say goodbye. I think he and Francis were close, they cared for each other,’ he said.
During his eight-year papacy, Benedict, a methodical, shy and very private German, had a hard time filling the shoes of the charismatic John Paul, inviting constant comparison in the media and among the faithful of the 1.3 billion member Church.
Public viewing of the former’s pope’s body lasts for 10 hours today in St Peter’s Basilica.
Twelve hours of viewing are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday before Thursday morning’s funeral.
Pope Francis prayed for his predecessor’s passage to heaven as he presided over a special New Year’s Day Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.
Francis, who looked weary after arriving to St Peter’s Basilica in a wheelchair during Sunday’s Mass.
Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the 265th pope on April 19 2005, aged 78, and chose the name Benedict.
He spent eight years leading the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics before stepping down from the papacy in 2013, citing his old age and declining health.