The authorities in Rome expect up to 35,000 visitors a day who want to pay their last respects to Benedict before his funeral. The deceased pope is said to have been laid out in St. Peter’s Basilica by Wednesday. Among the first mourners was Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. President Sergio Mattarella was in the basilica just before 9 a.m., Agnello Stoia, the parish priest of St. Peter’s Basilica, told the Ansa news agency.
The municipal police already began on Sunday to take precautions to channel the flow of pilgrims. But unlike after the death of Pope John Paul II in April 2005, no mass rush of pilgrims is expected.
Benedict XVI wears the red papal robe
The Vatican published the first photos of the body on Sunday. In the chapel of the small monastery “Mater Ecclesiae”, which is still decorated for Christmas, where Benedict XVI. spent his final years and died on New Year’s Day, the body rests on pillows. The deceased is dressed in a red papal robe and wears a white miter on his head.
In terms of protocol, the Vatican gives Benedict the highest honor. Born in Bavaria, he is expressly honored as Pope Emeritus. Just a few hours earlier, “Vaticanisti” in Rome had been controversially discussing whether the Vatican would now opt for purple – which is usual when a bishop is laid out – or for the papal red.
During the course of Sunday, some people were already able to say goodbye to Joseph Ratzinger. As Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni announced, it was mainly former close employees and people who were personally connected to the deceased who came to the chapel of the house where Benedict XVI. lived since 2013. Among them were some cardinals.
“We see a mortal shell, we see the human being in his limitations between birth and death,” said the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Georg Bätzing, in a statement on the laying out of Benedict. But: the man and theologian Joseph Ratzinger, the former pope, lives with God.
Pope Francis conducts requiem
Benedict’s funeral is planned for Thursday, and around 60,000 people are expected to attend the funeral service in the Vatican. This is significantly fewer than in 2005 at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, for which more than a million people came to Rome. Afterwards Benedict XVI. buried in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica – reportedly in the tomb where the remains of John Paul II once lay until after his canonization they were moved to another location in the basilica.
Pope Francis will preside over the Requiem. He called on Sunday to pray for his deceased predecessor. At the New Year’s Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis asked Our Lady to accompany the Pope Emeritus on his journey from this world to God.
During the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope bowed in a minute’s silence in memory of the late pontiff. “We all join with one heart and soul in one voice to give thanks to God for the gift of this faithful minister of the gospel and of the church,” he said.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier travels to the Vatican
It is unclear who will come to the funeral mass on St. Peter’s Square. Only the delegations from the country of birth Germany and from Italy were officially invited. German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has already announced that he will be there, and Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella is expected to attend. Polish President Andrzej Duda has already announced his participation.
Some crowned heads are also expected, such as the Belgian royal couple. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde combined the announcement of their official mourning with the announcement that they would be present at the funeral service. However, a comparable presence of secular rulers and monarchs is not expected as at the funeral service for Benedict’s Polish predecessor John Paul II, when around 200 heads of state and government were present on St. Peter’s Square.
Several German bishops have already confirmed their participation in the funeral service. In addition to the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, Cardinal Reinhard Marx from Munich and Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki from Cologne will also travel to Rome, the Bishops’ Conference announced on Monday. The Bishop of Passau, Stefan Oster, and the Bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, also wanted to come.
Prime Minister Söder takes part in the funeral
Above all, many believers from Bavaria want Benedict XVI. the Bavarian Pope, pay their last respects. Prime Minister Markus Söder also wants to travel to Rome for the funeral.
Bavarian believers travel to Rome by bus
The first bus with Benedict supporters who want to experience the requiem for the late Pope in Rome on Thursday will leave Regensburg on Monday evening. The organizer “Bayerisches Pilgrimbüro” added the trips to the Requiem in Rome to the program at short notice after the news of his death. Two more buses start Tuesday morning. If interest continues to increase, more buses would be rented, a spokesman for the Bavarian Pilgrim Office told BR.
Secretary tells of Benedict’s last words
Benedict himself, who resigned his papal office almost ten years ago, wished for a simple ceremony in his will. He explicitly asked for simplicity in connection with the burial and the associated rituals, said the spokesman for the Holy See, Matteo Bruni.
Joseph Ratzinger died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95 in his home in the Vatican Gardens. “Lord, I love you” – according to Benedikt’s longtime secretary Georg Gänswein, these were the last words of the Pope Emeritus on his deathbed. A nurse who took care of the 95-year-old said that, said Gänswein on Sunday. Benedict spoke Italian, his voice was weak, but what was said was understandable. Gänswein did not provide information on the identity of the nurse.
Spiritual testament published
Benedict XVI was the first German pope for almost 500 years. From 2005 to 2013 he was the head of the Catholic Church. He also wrote church history with his voluntary resignation. He was the first pope to resign from office in over 700 years.
In the past, the handling of Benedict XVI. repeatedly criticized as too hesitant with the abuse scandal. In his spiritual testament, written in 2006 and now published posthumously, Benedict XVI wrote: “I sincerely ask forgiveness from everyone whom I have wronged in any way.”
In the legacy, the German clergyman also thanked God for his “beautiful homeland in the Bavarian foothills of the Alps” and his companions. In his native Bavaria, the deceased will be commemorated on Tuesday evening with a solemn requiem in Munich’s Liebfrauendom.
Soon calls for beatification Benedict XVI.?
Gänswein considers it possible that Benedict XVI. Demands for an early beatification become loud. That’s what Benedict’s longtime private secretary said in an interview on private Catholic television “EWTN”.
The last time this phenomenon occurred was at the funeral of John Paul II in April 2005, under the Italian slogan “santo subito”. He was beatified in 2011, six years after his death, and canonized three years later. He was the fastest canonized pope in modern times.
Gänswein answered the question “Also santo subito?” saying, “I think it’s going in that direction.” Author and biographer Peter Seewald recently made a similar statement.