Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 2, 2023 / 16:00 pm
Some 65,000 pilgrims waited in line to pay their respects to Benedict XVI Monday, providing moving scenes of grief and gratitude on the first day the pope emeritus' body lay in state in St. Peter's Basilica.
Simple rituals of prayer, holy water, incense, and silent goodbyes began in darkness inside the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, where he died Saturday at age 95.
Those who had cared for him there during his nearly decade-long retirement — including his longtime personal secretary and spokesman, Archbishop Georg Gänswein — said prayers and farewells before Benedict’s mortal remains were transported in a motor coach from the monastery’s chapel to the basilica, as a small group of mourners processed behind the vehicle past brightly lit Christmas decorations in the Vatican Gardens.
Once there, pallbearers slowly bore his body inside the massive church and down the center aisle, setting it atop a platform in front of the altar. The symbolism was potent: the 265th pope lying in state almost directly above the tomb of the first, St. Peter.