Scenes from a day of grief and gratitude: 65,000 pay their respects to Benedict XVI

 

The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. / Daniel Ibañez / EWTN

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 2, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

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.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, incensed Benedict’s body and sprinkled it with holy water, praying for Benedict’s soul. The dignitaries in attendance included Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, and prime minister, Giorgia Meloni.

Among the first to have a private moment there with Benedict was Gänswein, who bent down to kiss the hands of his friend and mentor.

Outside, well-wishers waited patiently in St. Peter’s Square to enter the basilica, some praying for the former pope as they shuffled forward.

At the end of their wait, after their own solemn procession down the center aisle, they saw him at last, dressed in red and gold vestments and wearing a gold miter, rosary beads in his hands. Before they reached the front of the line for an unobstructed view, some craned their necks for a clearer glimpse or stood on tip-toes to snap photos with their cell phones.

Late Monday the Vatican press office estimated that 65,000 people had made the pilgrimage throughout the day. Benedict’s body will continue to lie in state through Jan. 4. His funeral is Thursday. You can watch EWTN’s live coverage of Benedict’s death from Rome here.

The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media

 

The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media

The mortal remains of Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media
The mortal remains of Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, presided over a brief ritual upon the arrival of Benedict XVI’s body in St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 2, 2023, sprinkling the body with holy water and offering prayers for the repose of his soul. Vatican Media
Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, presided over a brief ritual upon the arrival of Benedict XVI’s body in St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 2, 2023, sprinkling the body with holy water and offering prayers for the repose of his soul. Vatican Media

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, bids farewell to the late pontiff while his body lays in state at St. Peter's Basilica. Vatican Media
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, bids farewell to the late pontiff while his body lays in state at St. Peter’s Basilica. Vatican Media

Italy's Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni (third from left, front row) pays her respects to the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 2, 2023. Vatican Media
Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni (third from left, front row) pays her respects to the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 2, 2023. Vatican Media

The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Daniel Ibañez / EWTN
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Daniel Ibañez / EWTN

The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media

The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Daniel Ibañez / EWTN
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Daniel Ibañez / EWTN

The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Daniel Ibañez / EWTN
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Daniel Ibañez / EWTN

The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Daniel Ibañez / EWTN
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Daniel Ibañez / EWTN

The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter's Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media
The mortal remains of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were moved early in the morning on Jan. 2, 2023, from his former residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope is lying in state through Jan. 4. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects. Vatican Media

The Holy See Press Office estimated that 65,000 people paid their respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Jan. 2, 2023, the first day his body was lying in state in St. Peter's Basilica. Vatican Media
The Holy See Press Office estimated that 65,000 people paid their respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Jan. 2, 2023, the first day his body was lying in state in St. Peter’s Basilica. Vatican Media

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the longtime personal secretary of Benedict XVI, embraces one of the estimated 65,000 pilgrims who came to pay their respects to the former pope on Jan. 2, 2023, the first day his body was lying in state in St. Peter's Basilica. Daniel Ibañez / EWTN
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the longtime personal secretary of Benedict XVI, embraces one of the estimated 65,000 pilgrims who came to pay their respects to the former pope on Jan. 2, 2023, the first day his body was lying in state in St. Peter’s Basilica. Daniel Ibañez / EWTN

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