Thousands thronged St. Peter’s Basilica before dawn on Monday to pay their respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s body lying in state. The doors of the basilica were swung open so the public, some of who had waited for hours in the dampness before dawn to the late pontiff.
As the daylight broke,10 white-gloved Papal Gentlemen — lay assistants to pontiffs and papal households — carried the body on a cloth-covered wooden stretcher up the center aisle of the mammoth basilica to its resting place in front of the main altar under Bernini’s towering bronze canopy.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, held a special Mass for Benedict at St. Patrick’s Cathedral; its bells tolled 95 times before the Mass – reflecting Benedict’s age when he died.
“We’ll miss him very much. We are sad, but we also praise Almighty God for the gift that he was his 96 years, his, piety, his humility, his towering intellect,” Dolan said.
Filippo Tuccio, 35, came from Venice on an overnight train to view Benedict’s body. “I wanted to pay homage to Benedict because he had a key role in my life and my education. I arrived here at around 7:30, after leaving Venice last night,” Tuccio said.
Public viewing lasts for 10 hours on Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the public viewing hours would last for 12 hours. The funeral is scheduled for Thursday morning. which will be led by Pope Francis at St Peter’s square. At least 25,000 people are expected to pay homage to the last day.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died at the age of 95 on Saturday morning in the Vatican monastery where he had lived since his retirement. He was the first in history to resign from the papacy in 2013 calling it his -retirement.