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Crowds Gather to View Pope Benedict’s Body

National

Pope Benedict XVI | Image by Giulio Napolitano/Shutterstock

Over 60,000 people came to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to see the body of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Monday.

Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger, died at the age of 95 on Saturday morning, as The Dallas Express previously reported.

Security officials expected around 25,000 people to come to view the body, but more than double that amount had passed through by the end of the day.

The former pope’s body was carried on a stretcher into St. Peter’s Basilica and placed under the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s baldacchino — a bronze canopy that stands over the high altar and St. Peter’s tomb.

After 9 a.m., the public was allowed into the basilica to pay their respects. Many had been waiting outside since well before dawn.

Ushers moved the line of viewers along, as an organ accompanied a choir singing “Kyrie Eleison,” meaning “Lord, have mercy.”

The former pope’s body was draped in a red cloak. His hands held a rosary and a miter sat on his head.

Benedict retired from the papacy in 2013. He was the first pope to do so in 600 years.

Before and during his papacy, Benedict was renowned as a theologian and scholar, writing 66 books, three encyclicals, and four apostolic exhortations in his lifetime.

The pope emeritus’ last words were reported to be “Lord, I love you,” according to his longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

Public viewing of the body will continue through Wednesday. The funeral will take place on Thursday morning in St. Peter’s Square. The funeral mass will be celebrated by Pope Francis, Benedict’s successor.

Benedict’s reported wish for a simple funeral will be fulfilled by the Vatican.

Authorities are expecting 60,000 to attend the Mass and have begun preparations for the crowds by setting up chairs and an altar in the square.

Benedict will be buried in the crypt of the grotto under St. Peter’s. He will be laid to rest in the place last occupied by Pope St. John Paul II. In 2011, John Paul II’s body was moved into the main basilica.

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