AP

Some 200,000 turn out over 3 days to view Benedict’s body

Jan 3, 2023, 10:51 AM | Updated: Jan 4, 2023, 10:35 pm

The body of late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is lied out in state inside St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. Pope Benedict, the German theologian who will be remembered as the first pope in 600 years to resign, has died, the Vatican announced Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. He was 95.(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis praised Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s “acute and gentle thought” during a Wednesday general audience in the Vatican, as tens of thousands of admirers of the retired pontiff filed by his body lying in state in Peter’s Basilica on the final day of viewing.

By the time the basilica’s doors were shut to the public on Wednesday evening, about 200,000 people had paid their respects over three days of viewing.

After the closure, Vatican officials were preparing to place the 95-year-old German churchman’s body into a wooden coffin, ahead of Thursday morning’s funeral in St. Peter’s Square.

Among the last viewers were a married couple from Calabria. Gaspare Guadagnuolo, 73, and Lina Proto, 62, said they remember a visit by Benedict to that southern region years ago.

“I was struck by people’s participation,” Proto said. “There was a lot of intense emotion.”

At his customary weekly audience, Francis was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd in Paul VI auditorium and shouts of “Viva il papa!” or “Long live the pope.”

“It is my duty to come,” said Malgorzata Nowska, a Polish resident of Rome as she paid tribute Wednesday. She said she wanted to give Benedict “a last hug, a last prayer.”

Francis is due to preside over Benedict’s funeral, an event drawing heads of state and royalty despite Benedict’s requests for simplicity and Vatican efforts to keep the first funeral for an emeritus pope in modern times low-key.

Only Italy and Germany were invited to send official delegations, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italian President Sergio Mattarella confirmed their participation.

But other heads of state and government decided to take the Vatican up on its offer and come in their “private capacity.” They included several other heads of state, at least four prime ministers and two delegations of royal representatives. All were attending in what the Vatican describes as a “private” role.

And in a further sign of officialdom, the Italian government announced it was lowering all Italian and European Union flags to half-staff on public buildings across the country Thursday.

Francis drew applause when he opened his remarks by giving a shout-out to all those who were outside paying tribute to Benedict, whom he called a “great master of catechesis.”

“His acute and gentle thought was not self-referential, but ecclesial, because he always wanted to accompany us in the encounter with Jesus,” Francis said.

Later Wednesday, Vatican officials were to place Benedict’s body in a cypress coffin — the first of three coffins –along with a brief, written summary of his historic papacy, the coins minted during his pontificate and his pallium stoles.

After the funeral in the piazza, the remains will be carried back into the basilica, where the coffin will placed inside a zinc one, and then finally into another made from oak.

In keeping with Benedict’s wishes, his remains will be placed in the crypt once occupied by the tomb of St. John Paul II in the grottos underneath the basilica. John Paul’s tomb was moved upstairs into the main basilica ahead of his 2011 beatification.

Benedict, who was elected pope in 2005 following John Paul’s death, became the first pope in six centuries years to resign when he announced in 2013 he no longer had the strength to lead the Catholic Church. After Francis was elected pope, Benedict spent his nearly decade-long retirement in a converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens.

“We can’t forget the example that he gave in his resignation, that he more or less said, ‘Look, I’m not in this for the prestige, the power of the office, I’m in it for service, as Jesus taught,'” recalled Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whom Benedict named archbishop of New York in 2009 and cardinal in 2012.

Thursday’s rite takes into account the unusual situation in which a reigning pope will preside over a funeral for a retired one, making important changes to a funeral ritual for popes that is highly codified.

Two key prayers, from the diocese of Rome and the Eastern rite churches, that were recited during John Paul’s funeral, for example, will be omitted because Benedict wasn’t pope when he died and because both branches of the Catholic Church still have a reigning pope as their leader: Francis.

While the funeral will be novel, it does have some precedent: In 1802, Pope Pius VII presided over the funeral in St. Peter’s of his predecessor, Pius VI, who had died in exile in France in 1799 as a prisoner of Napoleon, the Vatican noted Wednesday.

___

Giada Zampano contributed.

___

More on the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: https://apnews.com/hub/pope-benedict-xvi

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

23 hours ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

3 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

4 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

4 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

5 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

6 days ago

Some 200,000 turn out over 3 days to view Benedict’s body