According to the Vatican, around 200,000 individuals paid their respects to retired Pope Benedict XVI during his three-day lie-in. His body is now in a coffin and will be buried on Thursday.
The Vatican says that Pope Francis will lead the funeral. This is the first time in over 220 years that a sitting Pope has shown the funeral of his predecessor.
The former Pope died on New Year’s Eve at 95, almost a decade after stepping down because of his health. At 9:30 local time, tens of thousands of people will gather in St. Peter’s Square, in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, for the funeral (8:30 GMT).
The Vatican says that the event will be simple, which is what Benedict asked for. Since Benedict was no longer the leader of a country when he died, only official delegations from Italy and Germany, where Benedict was born, would be there.
The Catholic news agency says that other leaders, like King Philippe of Belgium and Queen Letizia of Spain, as well as the leaders of Poland and Hungary, will be there unofficially.
As was his final wish, Pope Emeritus will be buried in the tombs under the Basilica, where more than 90 other popes are also buried. Before being put in the crypt, his body will be sealed in a zinc coffin and placed in a wooden case. Things that remind people of his time as Pope will also be put next to his body.
Portugal has declared a day of national mourning, and flags will be flown at half-mast on all public buildings in Italy.
At 11:00 in Germany (10:00 GMT), church bells will ring to honor the memory of the former Pope who was born in Germany.
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Pope Benedict Was A Strong Figure
In 2013, Benedict was the first Pope to step down in more than 600 years.
Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the essential British person at the Vatican, said that after he retired, he was still a “powerful presence.” Those who keep an eye on the Vatican say that, whether Benedict wanted it or not, he became a lightning rod for criticism of Pope Francis from within the church.
Archbishop Gallagher told the BBC, “It’s clear that there have been people in the Church who have looked to Benedict to compare with some of Pope Francis’s decisions.” But he added that the two popes had gotten along very well.
Archbishop Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign secretary, also said that the past week’s events had changed the situation in a way that might make it easier for Pope Francis to think about retiring.
“If there were three Popes, it would be hard to keep track of everything. But now that Pope Benedict has gone to be with the Lord, I think Pope Francis will stick to the rules he set, which are that he will stay in this job as long as he believes he can do it well, “he said, adding that he didn’t think a decision on whether to step down was coming up soon.
People worldwide came to see the former Pope while he was lying in state for the last three days.
One Catholic who went to Rome with his family to pay his respects said that going into the Basilica was “beautiful” and “humbling.”
Mountain Butorac told the BBC that Benedict had been like his “papal grandfather” because he was “very gentle” and “humble.” Others paid their respects in their own countries, like at this Mass in the Dominican Republic.
A priest from Zambia, Father Callistus Kahale Kabindama, told the news agency Reuters that Benedict was “a great Pope, a marvelous Pope.”
But Benedict was a controversial figure, and some people said he didn’t do enough to stop clerical sexual abuse.
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Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.