UPDATED: Faithful pay respects to former Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s

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VATICAN CITY, Jan 2 (Reuters) – A steady stream of people filed into St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday to pay their respects to former Pope Benedict XVI, whose body will lie in state in front of the main altar until his funeral later this week.

Benedict died on Saturday at the age of 95 in the secluded Vatican monastery where he had lived since his shock resignation in 2013.

His body, dressed in red and gold liturgical vestments, was placed on a simple dais, with two Swiss guards standing on either side as the faithful walked by.

He will lie in state until Wednesday. 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 his wishes.

There were no signs of the huge crowds who came to pay their respects to Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, following his death in 2005.

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.

The body of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) lies in state in the Saint Peter’s Basilica for public viewing, Vatican City, 02 January 2023. The funeral will take place on Thursday 05 January. EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI

Here are the initial details of the ceremonies, as outlined in a Vatican statement.

LYING IN STATE

Until early Monday morning, Benedict’s body will remain in the small monastery within the Vatican where he lived. No official visits to see his body, or public prayers, will be held during this time.

On Monday it will be moved to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the public can view the body from 9 a.m. (0800 GMT) to 7 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Jan. 2, 3 and 4.

FUNERAL

Benedict’s funeral will be held on Thursday, Jan. 5 in St. Peter’s Square, in front of the basilica. The ceremony will start at 9:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) and will be presided over by Pope Francis.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that following the wishes of Benedict, the funeral would be simple, solemn and sober.

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, suggesting the event will be relatively low key.

Representatives from other countries or organisations can attend in a private capacity, diplomats were told.

BURIAL

The Vatican said that after the ceremony, Benedict’s body will be taken back inside St. Peter’s Basilica and buried in the Vatican Grottoes, beneath the church, where more than 90 popes have found their final resting place.

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 rest in 2005.

John Paul’s body was later moved following his beatification in 2011 to a chapel on the main level of the basilica next to the one where Michelangelo’s Pieta is displayed.

A handout picture provided by the Vatican Media shows the corpse of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) exhibited in the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican City, 01 January 2023. Pope Benedict XVI wears red liturgical vestments and has a miter on his head. In his hands, he has a rosary. He wears the shoes instead of the sandals he had chosen as his favorite footwear since he became Pope Emeritus. EPA-EFE/VATICAN MEDIA HANDOUT HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

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