Tens of thousands of people — a mix of Roman Catholic faithful and tourists — lined up outside St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City yesterday to pay last respects to Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, who died on Saturday at age 95 and who is now lying in state. The Vatican said that at least 65,000 people passed through on the first day of the public viewing.
Benedict led the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics from 2005 to 2013. He stunned the world a decade ago when he announced that he would retire, the first pope to do so in some 600 years, citing his declining state of health. He lived for another 10 years, residing in a secluded monastery in the Vatican and remaining “hidden from the world,” as he had pledged to do.
Inside St. Peter’s, Benedict rested on a simple dais in front of the main altar, dressed in traditional red and white garments, his hands crossed beneath a rosary. There were no other papal insignia or regalia, such as the silver staff with a crucifix. Two Swiss Guards, who protect the pope and his residence, stood at attention as mourners passed by.