Pope Benedict XVI's funeral to take place before faithful at Vatican

About 200,000 people have visited to pay their respects over three days of public viewing

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The funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will take place on Thursday after hundreds of thousands queued to see his body in the Vatican.

Church officials overnight made preparations to place Benedict in a wooden coffin before his funeral in St Peter’s Square.

Benedict, 95, died on December 31 in the monastery on Vatican grounds where he had spent his retirement, mainly devoting himself to prayer and reflection. He was the church's 265th pontiff.

The faithful in St Peter’s Square are expected to number at least 60,000 and have been invited to recite the rosary aloud.

By the time the basilica’s doors were shut to the public on Wednesday evening, about 200,000 people had paid their respects over three days of viewing.

Among the last were a couple from Calabria. Gaspare Guadagnuolo, 73, and Lina Proto, 62, said they remember a visit by Benedict to their home region.

“I was struck by people’s participation,” Ms Proto said. “There was a lot of intense emotion.”

Pope Francis is due to preside over Benedict’s funeral, an event drawing heads of state and royalty despite Benedict’s requests for simplicity and Vatican efforts to keep the first funeral for an emeritus pope in modern times low-key.

Only Italy and Germany were invited to send official delegations, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italian President Sergio Mattarella confirmed their participation.

Other heads of state and government are attending in a “private capacity”, including at least four prime ministers and two delegations of royal representatives.

During his weekly address, Pope Francis drew applause when he mentioned those who were there paying tribute to Benedict, whom he called a “great master of catechesis”.

“His acute and gentle thought was not self-referential, but ecclesial, because he always wanted to accompany us in the encounter with Jesus,” he said.

After the funeral in the piazza, where Benedict will lie in a cypress coffin, he will be taken into the basilica, where his coffin will be placed inside a zinc one, and then finally into another made from oak.

In keeping with Benedict’s wishes, his remains will be placed in the crypt in the grottos underneath the basilica.

Benedict, who was elected pope in 2005, became the first pontiff in six centuries years to resign, announcing in 2013 that he no longer had the strength to lead the Catholic Church.

Updated: January 05, 2023, 5:23 AM
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