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Benedict XVI 1927-2022 | Worshipers flock to St. Peter’s Basilica for a final tribute

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(Vatican City) Thousands of the faithful marched on Monday under the gold of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome to meditate before the remains of Benedict XVI, who died on Saturday at the age of 95 and whose funeral will be celebrated Thursday by Pope Francis.

A long queue has been snaking since dawn in St. Peter’s Square surrounded by Bernini’s colonnade, in the presence of numerous media and a thousand members of the police.

“It seemed normal to me to come and pay homage to him after all he has done for the Church,” said Sister Anna-Maria, an Italian nun.

“He was a great pope, profound and unique”, emphasizes Francesca Gabrielli, who came especially from Tuscany, who appreciates “the atmosphere of contemplation” reigning in the basilica.

The remains of Joseph Ratzinger rest on a catafalque stretched with fabric, surrounded by two Swiss Guards in ceremonial dress, in front of the main altar of the basilica dominated by a bronze baldachin with twisted colonnades.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY VATICAN MEDIA, VIA AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Believers gather before the remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

The late pope is dressed in red – the color of papal mourning – and wearing a white miter adorned with a golden braid, a rosary and a crucifix in his hands.

After passing through a security gate, worshipers and tourists enter through the central aisle into the largest church in the world, most photographing the body of the former pope with their phones. Some pray or make the sign of the cross.

Meloni presents

The doors to the sprawling basilica will close at 7 p.m. (1 p.m. EST), then reopen from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST Tuesday and Wednesday.

Far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was among the first visitors.

Saint Peter’s Basilica, a masterpiece of architecture combining Renaissance and Baroque styles, completed in 1626, is one of the most important places in Christianity, since it houses the burial place of the apostle Saint Peter, disciple of Christ and first bishop of Rome, of whom the popes are the successors.


PHOTO BY RICCARDO DE LUCA, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was among the first visitors.

Brilliant theologian and fervent guardian of dogma, Benedict XVI, who had resigned in 2013 because of his declining strength, died peacefully Saturday morning at the monastery where he had lived since then, located in the heart of the Vatican gardens.

Early Monday, his body was transferred to the basilica where a ritual of blessing was held, in the presence of his close entourage, including the private secretary of the pope emeritus, Bishop Georg Gänswein.

Guardian of dogma

It is Pope Francis who will preside over the funeral of his predecessor on Thursday, an unprecedented event in the two thousand year history of the Catholic Church which will put an end to the unusual cohabitation of the two men in white.

The ceremony, “solemn, but sober” according to the Vatican, will be held from 9:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. Eastern time) in St. Peter’s Square, where the funeral of John Paul II had attracted a million people in 2005.

The first German pope in modern history will then be buried in the crypt of the basilica where John Paul II rested until 2011, Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni said on Monday.

Benedict XVI’s last words, spoken in Italian hours before his death on Saturday in the presence of a nurse at his bedside, were: “Lord, I love you,” Bishop Gänswein reported.

After his eight years of a pontificate marked by multiple crises, Benedict XVI had been caught up in early 2022 by the drama of pedocrime in the Church. Questioned by a report in Germany on his management of sexual violence when he was Archbishop of Munich, he broke his silence to ask for “pardon”, but assured that he had never covered up a child criminal.

A subject raised by Valerie Michalak, a German who came with her husband and their four children, originally from Dortmund, leaving the basilica: “we know that he was aware of certain details and he did not help to open the box of Pandora”, she regrets.

Born in 1927, Joseph Ratzinger taught theology for 25 years in Germany before being appointed Archbishop of Munich.

He then became the strict guardian of the dogma of the Church for another quarter of a century in Rome at the head of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.

The last pope to have participated in the Second Vatican Council, he nevertheless defended a conservative line at the head of the Church, in particular on abortion, homosexuality and medical assistance in dying.



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