the body of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI his head propped up on a pair of crimson pillows, lay in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday as thousands of people filed past to pay homage to the pontiff who shocked the world. upon retirement a decade ago.
As dawn broke, 10 white-gloved Papal Knights, lay attendants of pontiffs and papal houses, carried the body on a cloth-covered wooden stretcher after its arrival at the basilica to its resting place in front of the main altar under the imposing canopy of Bernini’s bronze. .
A Swiss Guard waved as the body was brought in through a side door after the remains of Benedict XVI, placed in a van, were moved from the chapel on the monastery grounds where the increasingly fragile 95-year-old former pontiff had died Saturday . Tomorrow.
His former secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, and a handful of consecrated lay women who served in the household of Benedict XVI, followed the van on foot for a few hundred meters in a silent procession toward the basilica. Some of the women reached out a hand to respectfully touch the body.
Before the rank and file faithful were allowed into the basilica, prayers were recited and the archpriest of the basilica, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, sprinkled holy water over the body and a small cloud of incense was thrown near the coffin. Benedict’s hands were clasped, a rosary around his fingers.
The doors of the basilica were opened so that the public, some of whom had waited for hours in the damp before dawn, could pay their respects to the late pontiff, who retired from the papacy in 2013 . become the first Pope to do so in 600 years.
Loyal and curious, the audience jogged down the central aisle to pass the cloth-draped coffin after waiting in a mid-morning line that snaked around St. Peter’s Square.
Benedict’s body was dressed in a miter, a bishop’s visor headdress, and a red cape.
Filippo Tuccio, 35, said he came from Venice on an overnight train to see Benedict’s body.
“I wanted to pay tribute to Benedict because he played such a key role in my life and upbringing. I got here around 7:30, after leaving Venice last night,” Tuccio said.
“When I was young I participated in the World Youth Days,” said the pilgrim, referring to the revelries of young faithful that are held periodically and attended by popes. Tuccio added that he had studied theology and “his pontificate of him accompanied me during my university years.”
“He was very important to me: because of who I am, my way of thinking, my values. That’s why he wanted to fire me today.”
Among those who attended the basilica was Cardinal Walter Kasper, like Benedict, a German theologian. Kasper served as head of the Vatican’s office of Christian unity during Benedict’s papacy.
Benedict left an “important mark” on theology and spirituality, but also on the history of the papacy with his courage to step aside, Kasper told The Associated Press.
“This resignation was not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength, a greatness because he saw that he was no longer up to the challenges of being pope,” Kasper said.
Kasper, who was among the cardinals who elected Benedict XVI to the papacy in 2005, added that the decision to resign gave “a more human vision of the papacy: that the pope is a man and depends on his physical and mental strength.”
The public display lasts 10 hours on Monday at St. Peter’s Basilica. Twelve hours of wake are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday before Thursday morning’s funeral, which will be presided over by Pope Francis, in St. Peter’s Square.
As Benedict wished, the funeral will be marked by simplicity, the Vatican said when announcing the death on Saturday.
On Monday, the Vatican confirmed the widely reported burial plans. In accordance with his wishes, the tomb of Benedict XVI will be in the grotto crypt below the basilica that was last used by Saint John Paul II, before the saint’s body was transferred to the main basilica before his death. beatification in 2011, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said. he said.
Security officials expected at least 25,000 people to pass by the body on the first day of the wake. Italian state television said some 10,000 people had seen Benedict’s body after about four hours.
On two sides of the square’s colonnade, spectators went through the usual security measures required for tourists entering the basilica: going through metal detectors and checking bags through an X-ray machine.
Marina Ferrante, 62, was among them. The Roman arrived an hour before the doors opened and she was thrilled when she explained why she had come.
“I think his main legacy was teaching us how to be free,” he said. “He had a special intelligence to say what was essential in his faith and that was contagious” to other faithful. “What I thought when he died was that I would like to be as free as he was.”
Although he ventured that the timid German churchman and theologian and the current Argentine-born pontiff had different temperaments, “I think there is a continuity between him and Pope Francis and anyone who understands the real relationship between them and Christ can see that,” Ferrante said. . .
An American man living in Rome called the chance to see the body “an incredible experience.” Mountain Butorac, 47, of Atlanta, said he arrived 90 minutes before dawn opening and left the basilica a half hour after he 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 kind of a grandfather to the people who lived in the Vatican.”
He came to the Vatican to pray for Benedict when he was sick, “so I wanted to be here today to say goodbye. I think he and Francis were close, they cared for each other,” he said.
With the soft rendition of an organ and a chorus of “Kyrie Eleison” (“Lord, have mercy” in ancient Greek) in the background, ushers moved well-wishers at a steady pace down the central aisle of the basilica and then pushed them away. gently forward, saying, in Italian, “avanti” (to keep going) to keep up the fast pace. Someone left a red rose.
Some high-profile people had a moment before the general public to pay their respects, including Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the leader of extreme right wing who in the past expressed admiration for the conservative leanings of Benedict XVI.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella also came to see the body. The Vatican has said that only official delegations from two nations, from Italy and Benedict XVI’s native Germany, were formally invited to the funeral, as the emeritus pope was no longer head of state.
Sister Regina Brand was among the mourners who arrived in the square before dawn.
“He is a German pope and I am from Germany,” he said. “And I’m here to express my gratitude and love, and I want to pray for him and see him.”