Prior to his funeral, the remains of the previous pope Benedict XVI will lie in state for three days at St. Peter’s Basilica. Catholics will have the opportunity to pay their respects to him in the Vatican on Monday.
The German theologian, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 95, presided over the Catholic Church for eight years before resigning in 2013.
Before his bones are interred in the crypt beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, his successor Pope Francis will preside over the funeral on Thursday in the enormous St. Peter’s Square.
Benedict XVI passed away at the Mater Ecclesiae convent, where he had resided for the previous ten years, in the Vatican gardens.
His remains will be brought to the basilica early on Monday, when the faithful can say their final goodbyes for three days during the day.
The Vatican published images of his corpse on a catafalque in the abbey church on Sunday. He was draped in red papal mourning garments and had a gold-edged mitre on his head.
Francis and Benedict are currently the two “guys in white” at the Vatican due to Benedict’s unexpected resignation.
His funeral will make history as well.
Normally, when a pope passes away, a conclave of cardinals is called to pick a new pope, but Francis is still in office and will preside over the meeting this time.
The Vatican has stated that Benedict XVI‘s burial will be “solemn but simple,” and that he will afterwards be buried in the papal mausoleum under St. Peter’s Basilica.
Besides stating that delegations from Italy and Benedict’s native Germany will be present, the Vatican has not yet disclosed any other information on the guest list.
Although Benedict was a more contentious figure, a million faithful and heads of state from all over the world attended John Paul II’s last papal funeral in 2005.
Although he was a great theologian, his steadfast defense of traditional values alienated many Catholics. He also struggled as pope to assert his power over the church as it confronted a number of problems, including clerical sex abuse.
His replacement, an Argentine Jesuit who is most at home among his sheep and has worked to create a more compassionate church, cuts a quite different picture.
In three New Year’s celebrations held at the Vatican over the weekend, Pope Francis paid tribute to Benedict, “thanking God for the gift of this devoted servant of the Gospel and of the Church.”
Francis, 86, has hinted that if he were unable to perform his duties, he might follow Benedict’s lead and resign.
In July, after being forced to use a wheelchair due to knee difficulties, he acknowledged that he needed to slow down or consider moving to the side.
Francis stated last month that he had signed a letter of resignation when he assumed office in case his health prevented him from performing his duties.