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Pope Benedict XVI: Faithful pay respects at Vatican viewing

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VATICAN CITY – His body was taken to St. Peter’s Basilica just after dawn on Monday, wearing a red vest and black office shoes. One of his crimson cushions propped his back, another his two pillows under his head. After the cardinal sprinkled incense around his body, before the doors of the cathedral were opened to the public, workers pulled ropes from the catafalque so that the body of Pope Emeritus Benedict his XVI would stand out.

Thus began a novel week in which the retired pope — who spent ten years in seclusion until his death on Saturday — became the center of the Catholic world one last time.

He was placed just in front of the main altar under a towering gilded cupola for all those who came to pay his respects. Two Swiss guards stood guard. A total of 34 public hours leading up to his funeral on Thursday included rosary-bearing nuns, people holding hands and pilgrims traveling for hours to get there.

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“A giant of faith,” said 47-year-old Andrea Ascani, who drove with his family from the hill town of Assisi, Umbria.

But looking at Monday’s minutes, it was also clear that there’s a big difference between dying as a pope and dying as an ex-pope.

When John Paul II was laid to rest, Rome’s hotels were fully booked, and the wait to see his body could be lengthy.

For Benedict, the wait was 1 hour. The crowd around the cathedral was larger than usual, but was confined near the main square.About 40,000 people applied between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., according to the Vatican.

And most notably, there was little overt emotion. Some of the people passing by were just tourists who wanted to see the cathedral. Many held their mobile phones high as we approached Catafalk. Security kept the line briskly moving — “Keep moving! Keep moving!” they told the crowd – difficult for those who wanted an intimate moment.

The decline of John Paul fascinated Catholics. Because it was very public and painful. Even days before his death, the 84-year-old pope appeared at a window overlooking Saint Peter’s Square, struggling to pronounce his coherent syllables.

But in Benedict’s case, aging happened mostly behind the scenes. Pope Francis replaced him as Catholic spiritual authority, and Benedict had only modest influence after retirement, including occasional writing and appearances in Vatican pictures. considered him a regular inspiration. But to many of the faith, his everyday relevance had faded.

“Now he’s yesterday’s Pope,” said Gerald O’Connell, a Vatican correspondent who has covered the church for more than 30 years and wrote a report on the conclave that elected Francis.

O’Connell said Benedict received an emotional send-off — but it wasn’t until 2013 that he abdicated. , about him loving the church and having the “courage to make difficult and painful decisions”.

“I remember the feeling of grief, the emotion,” O’Connell said.

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Even before he became pope, Benedict had attained a central position in modern Catholicism, working first in theological studies and then as John Paul’s trusted aide for twenty years. After serving eight years as pope, he became the first pope in 600 years to abdicate.

But some people in line on Monday pointed out that Benedict looked so small when he died despite all his stature in the faith. . Even before his health deteriorated, his height was only 5ft 7. In recent years he has become more and more slouchy.

Markus Lautenschlager, a Protestant pastor from Germany, visited Rome with his family and stood in line to pay tribute.

While lying down, his hands were clasped at his waist and he held a rosary. His skin had a grayish tint.

“It was a little morbid,” said Denisa Manojlovic, who visited Rome from Croatia.

Last Wednesday, Pope Francis indicated that his predecessor was in ill health and asked for prayers.

What will happen to Pope Benedict’s funeral? Pope Francis will preside.

Officials expect a crowd of around 60,000 for the funeral. Benedict is then buried in the intestinal grotto of Saint Peter’s Basilica, where the remains of his 91 popes are kept. The funeral is quite different from those given to previous popes, as Benedict marks his status as Pope Emeritus. Only his two delegations in Italy and Germany are present.

Even on Monday, Benedict didn’t have all the pope’s marks.The Vatican news site said Benedict lay without a pallium, a vestment not used for “retired prelates.” pointed out.

For nearly ten years, Benedict lived in a convent within the walls of the Vatican. That’s also where he died. His body was taken to the cathedral in a van early Monday morning by 10 white-gloved attendants on a red cloth-covered platform. Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archbishop of the cathedral, prayed that the “deceased pope emeritus” would be welcomed into the “eternal abode”.

Prior to the public opening, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni paid their respects.

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