VATICAN CITY, Jan 2 (Reuters) – A steady stream of tens of thousands of people poured into St Peter’s Basilica on Monday ahead of the funeral of former Pope Benedict XVI without any papal regalia. This week.
Benedict, a hero of conservative Catholics who longed for a return to a more traditional church, died on Saturday at the age of 95 in the secluded Vatican monastery where he had lived since 2013.
“I feel like he’s our grandfather,” Veronica Siegal, 16, a Catholic high school student from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who came to Rome for a religious studies program, told Reuters after seeing the body. .
He said he read one of Benedict’s books about Jesus in one of his courses.
“I know he’s in a good place because he was a holy man and he led very well,” said classmate Molly Foley, 16, of Atlanta, Georgia. The third girl in the group wore an American flag on her back.
Security was tightened and pilgrims went through several checkpoints before entering the basilica. Many stopped worshiping after seeing the body or stayed to attend mass in nearby churches.
Vatican police said 65,000 people filed complaints on the first day.
Benedict’s body, dressed in red and gold liturgical vestments and laid on a simple porch, was moved from the cloister through the Vatican Gardens before dawn to a place in front of the high altar of Christendom’s largest church.
On either side of the body stood the attention of the two Swiss Guards, who wore no papal insignia or regalia, such as a crozier, a silver staff with a cross, or a pallium, a cloth worn around the neck by archdiocesan bishops.
Both were present when the body of Pope John Paul II arrived in the state in 2005.
It is not known whether the pastoral cross or other items he used will be buried with him, but the decision not to take them on public view appears to have been made to emphasize that he was no longer pope when he died.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Benedict’s body was buried by Pope John Paul II in 2005, before it was moved to the basilica’s chapel in 2011, in the same place in the crypts under St. Peter’s Basilica, according to his wishes.
COURTESY OF ITALIAN LEADERS
Before the church opened to the public, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni were the first outsiders to visit.
Benedict’s closest aide, Archbishop Georg Hanswein, sat in the first row at the side of the body during Benedict’s final days, along with his family and medics.
A few hours later they stood before the body to pray. Ganswein stayed behind to offer condolences to the pilgrims.
“I had to come,” Sri, a woman from Jakarta, Indonesia, told Reuters. “He was the pope and I’m Catholic,” he said, declining to give his last name.
Benedict will be in the state until Wednesday evening. His funeral will be held in St. Peter’s Square on Thursday, with Pope Francis presiding. The Vatican said it would be a simple, solemn and solemn ceremony, in keeping with Benedict’s wishes.
The Vatican has rituals for the death of a reigning pope, but nothing for a former pope, so the events of the next few days could become a template for future ex-popes.
Bruni said that funeral arrangements have not been finalized.
Despite the large number of pilgrims, there were no signs of the huge crowd that came to pay homage to Pope John Paul II as millions waited for hours to enter the basilica.
Reporting by Philip Pullella, editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick McPhee
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