Thousands of people had been waiting since five in the morning to pay their respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on Saturday at the age of 95 in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican gardens. The Basilica of San Pedro has opened its doors at nine to welcome the first faithful who have come to say goodbye to the German pontiff, whose body has been placed in front of the main altar, in the same location as that of his predecessor, Juan Pablo II, next to Bernini's famous canopy.
Benedict XVI is dressed in the same clothes that were shown yesterday in the funeral chapel that took place at his residence, Mater Ecclesiae, where he was watched by friends, family and members of the Roman curia. Faced with the debate as to whether he should appear with pontifical traits or not due to his historic resignation in 2013, the Vatican has opted for a middle path: Ratzinger appears as pope, with the red chasuble, the color of papal mourning, and the miter; but without the ornaments that would represent him as head of the government of the Church, especially the papal pallium, the white wool stole that is worn on the shoulders and that, with the Fisherman's Ring, represents one of the powers of the see of Peter .
The first to arrive were some theology students from India who had come to say goodbye to what they consider to be the greatest theologian since Saint Augustine. Before the opening to the general public, the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, and the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, also paid tribute to the pontiff. The authorities offered their condolences to the family that has cared for Benedict in the last years of his life, his faithful secretary, Georg Gänswen, his secretary, Sister Birgit Wansing, and the four consecrated lay women of the Memores Domini institute, belonging to the Communion and Liberation movement. , who have taken care of you and the housework.
According to the Italian government delegation in Rome, some 35,000 people are expected to attend the wake and some 60,000 attend the burial, which will be held in St. Peter's Square, although it will not be a state funeral as he is not an active pope. . For this reason, only the delegations of Italy and Germany have been officially invited, while the rest of the authorities who want to come must do so in a private capacity. It is very difficult to make comparisons between the wake of John Paul II, attended by some 4 million people, with that of Benedict XVI. In the end, the Polish pope had been at the head of the Church for almost 27 years, and his successor lived for almost a decade apart from the world in the Vatican gardens and already said goodbye for the first time when he left the Vatican in the white helicopter.
Security has been reinforced with more than a thousand law enforcement agents around the Vatican, starting with Via della Conciliazione, given the long lines that are expected to increase during the day. “We have experienced it with shock at the death of the pope and with gratitude for what he did. We are from the Legionaries of Christ, and so we want to thank him for what he did for the Church and for us. They did a good job of differentiating between an emeritus and a reigning pope,” said Julio Reyes, a priest who was one of the first to enter.
“It has been a very strong emotion because Benedict represented a bridge between the Church of John Paul II and the Church of Pope Francis. I would have put it a little more horizontal to make it look better. This is how you see your feet above all,” said Sister Maria Teresa, an Italian nun. Maurén, a Mexican who was in Rome for a meeting of young Catholics, wanted to live the experience after her parents told her a lot about Ratzinger. "It is an incredible opportunity because from what we heard he was a very good pope and we wanted to honor his memory," he said. He was very nice, I feel that it is something that few people can experience and I have felt important to be part of this ”.