On Monday, mourners gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican to pay their respects to former Pope Benedict XVI, who passed away at the age of 95. His body was dressed in red and gold liturgical vestments and was placed on a simple dais in front of the main altar. Two Swiss Guards stood at attention on either side of the body, which bore no papal insignia or regalia. Before the basilica was opened to the public, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Georgia Meloni paid their respects. Benedict’s closest aide, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, sat in the front row along with members of Benedict’s household and medics who cared for him in his final days, according to Reuters.
Security was tight as visitors went through several check points before entering the basilica. Many stopped to pray after viewing the body or stayed to attend Mass in side chapels. Vatican police reported that 65,000 people filed past on the first day. Benedict’s body was moved in a procession from the monastery where he lived to the basilica just before dawn.
Benedict will lie in state until Wednesday evening, after which his funeral will be held on Thursday in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis will preside over the ceremony, which is expected to be simple, solemn, and sober in keeping with Benedict’s wishes. The details of the funeral Mass have not yet been finalized. While the number of visitors to pay their respects was large, it did not reach the scale of the crowds that came to see Pope John Paul II. The events of the next few days may serve as a template for future ex-popes.
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