St. Peter’s Basilica Hosts Former Pope Benedict XVI Lying in State

Benedict XVI laid to rest (usccb)

The vigil for former Pope Benedict XVI, who died at the age of 95 on Saturday, began on Monday in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, as preparations for his upcoming funeral got underway.

Benedict, unique as the first pope in nearly six centuries to resign rather than remain in office until death, passed away on December 31 at a monastery in Vatican City, the Vatican reported. Benedict had ascended to the papacy in April 2005, succeeding John Paul II.

Benedict XVI (usccb)

On Monday morning, his body was transported from the monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where it was laid in state, allowing the faithful to pay their last respects. By 2 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET), almost 40,000 people had visited to honor the former pope, according to Vatican officials.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President Sergio Mattarella were among the many dignitaries who paid their respects as Benedict lay in state.

Mourners in St. Peter’s Square expressed their desire to honor Benedict. “We’re here to pray and give thanks to God for Pope Benedict’s life,” said Paul, a student from Scotland.

“Besides his theological contributions to the Church, his dedication to praying for the Church during his retirement has been a profound example for all of us.”

The funeral service for Benedict will be held at 9:30 a.m. local time on Thursday in St. Peter’s Square, as stated by Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See press office. Pope Francis will lead the ceremony, adhering to Benedict’s request for a “simple” funeral.

On Sunday, during the Angelus prayer, Francis honored his predecessor: “In particular, this salute is to the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who passed away yesterday morning. We honor him as a devoted servant of the gospel,” he said.

Benedict was known for his conservative views, a stark contrast to Pope Francis, who has been more progressive on issues such as abortion and homosexuality and has taken outstanding steps to address the sexual abuse crisis within the Church, which had marred Benedict’s tenure.

In 2013, Benedict surprised the world by announcing his resignation, citing his “advanced age” as the reason.

In his farewell address, Benedict promised to remain “hidden” from the world, although he continued to comment on religious matters after his retirement, creating some tension within the Church.

His death prompted tributes from various political and religious leaders, including US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and the Dalai Lama.