Crowds of Catholics gathered in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican tonight as they prepare to say goodbye to Pope Benedict XVI.
Benedict, the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role, died in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican at 9.34am on Saturday and will be lying in state for mourners to pay their respects from Monday.
It comes after Pope Francis prayed for his predecessor’s passage to heaven as he presided over a special New Year’s Day Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.
The huge basilica will host Benedict’s coffin from Monday, and thousands of faithful are expected to attend the first of three days of viewing.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role, died in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican at 9.34am on Saturday and is now lying in state (pictured)
The body of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican
Visitors crowd St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican tonight after the death of Pope Benedict
Faithful gather in St. Peter’s Square to attend the Pope Francis Sunday Angelus blessing, following the announcement of the death of former Pope Benedict XVI, on January 1, 2023
The former pope’s body has been dressed in a mitre, the headgear of a bishop, and a red cloak-like vestment in preparation. A rosary was placed in his hand.
Francis, who looked weary after arriving to St Peter’s Basilica in a wheelchair this morning, will lead Benedict’s funeral on Thursday in St Peter’s Square where mourners gathered today.
The pontiff departed from his written homily this morning to pray aloud for Benedict, imploring the Virgin Mary to ‘accompany him in his passage to the hands’ of God.
Benedict’s funeral will be a simple one, the Vatican has said, in keeping with the wishes of the former pope, who for decades as a German cardinal had served as the Church’s guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy before he was elected pope in 2005.
An array of world leaders honoured Benedict’s legacy, with King Charles expressing his ‘deep sadness’ at his death in a message to Francis, as the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also paid tribute.
Pope Francis celebrates Holy Mass on the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God and on the 56th World Day of Peace in St. Peter’s Basilica today
Pope Francis holds a Mass for the solemnity of St. Mary at the beginning of the new year, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023
Pope Francis looks on, as he attends Mass to mark the World Day of Peace, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, January 1, 2023.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at Munich airport before his departure to Rome in 2020
A man holds the Vatican newspaper “L’Osservatore Romano” reporting the news of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during the Pope Francis Sunday Angelus blessing, at St. Peter’s Square, on January 1, 2023 in Vatican City
People gather in Saint Peter’s Square the day after the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
People queue in Saint Peter’s Square the day after the death of Pope Benedict
US president Joe Biden called Benedict an ‘inspiration to all’ and ‘a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith’.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales confirmed that Catholics up and down the UK will be praying for Benedict on Sunday.
Its general secretary, the Reverend Canon Chris Thomas, said: ‘We encourage Catholics in England and Wales to keep Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in their prayers.’
Benedict became the second pontiff in history to visit the UK in 2010 when he met the Queen and made a historic address at Westminster Hall.
From Monday, his body will be in Saint Peter’s Basilica so the worshippers can pay their respects.
Pope Francis leading mass in St Peter’s Basilica today
People gather in St. Peter’s Square with police cars seen in the foreground
Pope Francis presides at Holy Mass of the Solemnity of Most Holy Mary Mother of God on the 56st World Day of Peace in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, 01 January 2023.
Pope Francis arrives to hold a Mass for the solemnity of St. Mary at the beginning of the new year, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023
Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass to mark the World Day of Peace in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, January 1, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II talks with Pope Benedict XVI exchange gifts during an audience in the Morning Drawing Room at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, September 2010
Former pope Benedict, 95, looks on as he receives the winners of the ‘Premio Ratzinger’ at the Vatican, December 1, 2022
Speaking on Saturday, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said he wants Catholic churches in the UK to ‘echo the funeral Mass’ with their own ceremonies on Thursday.
Offering words of comfort to UK Catholics, he added: ‘We draw strength and comfort from our faith when anybody dies and when it’s the pope that dies it’s the same story, it’s the same prayers.
‘We commend them to God and we thank God for the great gifts of their life and especially of his life.’
He added: ‘I was consoled by a comment I heard that somebody had made in Rome a couple of days ago, where they put it rather beautifully – they said, ‘The angels are gathering, they’re coming to take him home’.’
In a statement, Charles paid tribute to Benedict and recalled visiting him at the Vatican in 2009.
He said: ‘I remember with fondness my meeting with His Holiness during my visit to the Vatican in 2009. His visit to the United Kingdom in 2010 was important in strengthening the relations between the Holy See and the United Kingdom.
‘I also recall his constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill to all people, and to strengthen the relationship between the global Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.’
Pope Francis presides at Holy Mass of the Solemnity of Most Holy Mary Mother of God on the 56st World Day of Peace in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, 01 January 2023
Pope Francis is seated as he prepares to preside over the service marking the World Day of Peace at St Peter’s Basilica, in The Vatican on January 1, 2023. – Pope Francis will address the Catholic faithful on January 1, 2023, at the Vatican, the day after the death of his predecessor Benedict XVI at the age of 95
Pope Francis (right) hold hands with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as he pays him a visit at the Vatican in November 2020
FILE – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger presents a book with the documents issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during a press conference at the Vatican on Dec. 12, 1985. Ratzinger went on to become Pope Benedict XVI
Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the 265th pope on April 19 2005, aged 78, and chose the name Benedict.
He served until February 2013 before becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign, citing his old age and declining health.
Mr Welby hailed Benedict as ‘one of the greatest theologians of his age’.
In a statement, he said Benedict was ‘committed to the faith of the Church and stalwart in its defence’.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote on Twitter: ‘I am saddened to learn of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
‘He was a great theologian whose UK visit in 2010 was a historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘His state visit in 2010 was a historic and joyous moment for Catholics in Britain.’
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