‘We love Benedict’: Catholics flock to the Vatican to say goodbye to Benedict XVI
Juan Luis Tron (second from left) and Maria Magdalene Baca (second from right) together with other young people from the Regnum Christi movement wait outside St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 2, 2023, to pay their respects to the late Pope Benedict XVI, who died Dec. 31, 2022. | Hannah Brockhaus / CNA
Giancarlo Rossi, who lives in Rome, told CNA he got in line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica at 7:45 a.m. on Jan. 2, 2023, to pay his respects to the late Pope Benedict XVI. | Hannah Brockhaus / CNA
Sister Angel Bilegu, a consecrated virgin in the Diocese of Rome, pictured on the right with members of the Little Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows. They were among those who visited St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 2, 2023, where the late Pope Benedict XVI, who died Dec. 31, 2022, laid in state for public viewing. | Hannah Brockhaus / CNA
The Schudel family was among those who visited St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 2, 2023, to pay their respects to the late Pope Benedict XVI, who died Dec. 31, 2022. | Hannah Brockhaus / CNA
Approximately 40,000 people visited Benedict XVI in the first five hours he was lying in state on Monday, according to the Vatican gendarmes.
Catholics have traveled to the Vatican from both near and far to see the late pope for the last time and to pray for his eternal repose.
The Herrera family traveled from Madrid, Spain, after learning that Benedict XVI had died on Dec. 31. They arrived in Rome late on Jan. 1 and joined the line of mourners the next morning.
Maria Jimenez told CNA she and her husband and four children, ages 19–25, “came especially to see the pope, to pray for him and to see him. To say goodbye, too.”
“We love Benedict,” she said, adding that she thinks he will one day be a saint.
Here are a few of the people who said goodbye to Benedict on Jan. 2:
Giancarlo Rossi, who lives in Rome, told CNA he got in line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica at 7:45 a.m.
He prayed the rosary while he waited to pay his final respects to Benedict.
“I met him a few times — I am from here. And so I came to greet the pope for the last time,” he told CNA. “And I am praying for him. I offered my Mass for him and I will ask for a plenary indulgence for him, as well.”
Gabriella Fedele, also from Rome, said she felt that Benedict XVI was a great and humble leader of the Church.
She told CNA his death is “a great sorrow, because a light is extinguished on this earth, but yet one is lit up in heaven.”
Sister Angel Bilegu, a consecrated virgin in the Diocese of Rome, waited in line from before sunrise to see the pope emeritus, whose election as pope she remembers.
“I appreciated his magisterium a lot,” she said. “He was a pastor and a theologian, who really did theology ‘on his knees.’”
“I really liked him a lot and so I had to come to say goodbye.”
Carmen Floriani and her husband, Hans Schudel, came to Rome with their three young children from Switzerland. Schudel waited in line from 6 a.m., while Floriani joined with their children — ages 5 months, 3, and 5 years — later in the morning.
Floriani, who is originally from Trento in the far northern part of Italy, told CNA her family came to see Benedict XVI “because he was our pope for some years,” but also because she and her husband, married six years, have a special connection to the Bavarian pope.
“The witness at our marriage is [former Cardinal] Ratzinger’s relative,” she said. “I studied in Munich, in Bavaria, and there I met the only members of his family still there. This is another reason for coming to say goodbye to him.”
A group of teens, members of the international lay movement Regnum Christi, also lined up early on Monday morning.
They said they were in Rome from Mexico, Spain, Germany, Philippines, and Italy for a gathering of 120 members of the movement.
Maria Magdalena Baca, 17, said: “We are pretty young and maybe we don’t remember much of him as pope. But I remember when he came to Mexico and my parents talked to me about him as a pope.”
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“I believe that we should be thankful, too,for his life,” 18-year-old Juan Luis Tron, from Mexico City, told CNA. “He was a pope that I admired so much. We have been talking about his life and many consecrated [women of Regnum Christi] and priests [of the Legionaries of Christ] have said, even though it’s sad, the notice that he has passed away, we should be thankful for his life and for all the things he built in the Church.”