Crowds view body of former Pope Benedict in St. Peter's
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[January 02, 2023]
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -A steady stream of tens of thousands of people
filed into St. Peter's Basilica on Monday to pay their respects to
former Pope Benedict XVI at the start of three days of laying in state
ahead of his funeral.
Benedict died on Saturday at the age of 95 in the secluded Vatican
monastery where he had lived since his shock resignation in 2013.
"I feel like he was a grandfather to us," Veronica Siegal, 16, a
Catholic high school student from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who is in Rome
for a programme of religious study, told Reuters in St. Peter's Square
after viewing the body.
She said she had read one of Benedict's books on Jesus for one of her
"I know that he is in a better place because he was a holy man and he
led so well," said her classmate, Molly Foley, also 16, from Atlanta,
Georgia. A third girl in the group wore an American flag on her back.
Benedict's body, dressed in red and gold liturgical vestments and placed
on a simple dais, was moved in a procession just before dawn through the
Vatican Gardens from the monastery to a spot in front of the main altar
of Christendom's largest Church.
Two Swiss Guards stood at attention on either side of the body, which
bore no papal insignia or regalia, such as a crosier, the silver staff
with a crucifix, or a pallium, a band of cloth worn around the neck worn
by archdiocesan bishops.
Both were on Pope John Paul's body when it lay in state in 2005.
ITALY'S LEADERS PAY RESPECTS
Security was tight, with visitors going through several check points
before entering the basilica. Many stopped to pray after viewing the
body or stayed to attend Mass in side chapels.
Before the Church was opened to the public, Italian President Sergio
Mattarella and Prime Minister Georgia Meloni were the first outsiders to
pay their respects.
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Faithful queue to enter St. Peterís
Basilica to pay homage to former Pope Benedict at the Vatican,
January 2, 2023. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Benedict's closest aide, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, sat in the first
pew to the side of the body along with Benedict's household and
medics who looked after him in his final days.
After a few hours, they rose to pray before the body. Ganswein
stayed behind to receive condolences from visitors.
"I had to come," Sri, a woman visiting from Jakarta, Indonesia, told
Reuters. "He was the pope and I am a Catholic," she said, declining
to give her surname.
Benedict will lie in state until Wednesday evening. His funeral will
be held on Thursday in St Peter's Square and be presided over by
Pope Francis. The Vatican has said it will be a simple, solemn and
sober ceremony in keeping with Benedict's wishes.
The Vatican has painstakingly elaborate rituals for what happens
after a reigning pope dies but none for a former pope, so what
happens in the next few days could become the template for future
While the number of visitors was large, there were no signs of the
huge crowds who came to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II,
when millions waited for hours to enter the basilica.
In 2020, Benedict's authorised biographer, Peter Seewald, was quoted
as telling Bavarian newspaper Passauer Neue Presse that the emeritus
pope had prepared a spiritual testament stating that he wanted to be
buried in the same crypt where John Paul II was originally laid to
(Reporting by Philip Pullella, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and
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