Tens of Thousands Pay Their Respects to Pope Benedict
Tens of thousands of people filed into St. Peter’s Basilica Monday to pay their respects to the late Pope Benedict XVI, whose body is lying in state.
Some of the faithful had lined up hours before dawn to wait for the doors of the basilica to open.
By mid-afternoon Monday, 40,000 people had filed past the late pope, according to Vatican police.
The 95-year-old retired pontiff died Saturday morning. In 2013, Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to step down from his Vatican post.
Filippo Tuccio, 35, told The Associated Press that he came from Venice on an overnight train to view Benedict’s body.
“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,” Tuccio said.
Benedict’s body, dressed in traditional red liturgical garments and without any papal paraphernalia, will lie in state until Wednesday.
On Thursday, “Pope Francis will become the first pope in modern history to preside as pope at the funeral of his predecessor,” according to the Vatican News website.
The Vatican has said the funeral will be marked by simplicity, in keeping with Benedict’s wishes.
On Monday, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Benedict, who was born Joseph Ratzinger, will be buried in the crypts under St. Peter’s Basilica where Pope John Paul II was originally buried before his body was moved to a chapel in the basilica in 2011.
“Lord, I love you,” are reported to be the last words Benedict uttered shortly before his death, Vatican News reported.
The retired pope’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said a nurse was the only person with Benedict at the time.
“I was not there at the moment, but the nurse told me about it shortly afterwards,” Ganswein said. “These were his last comprehensible words, because afterwards, he was no longer able to express himself.”
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.