Faithful pay homage to former Pope Benedict in St. Peter's Basilica
Vatican Issues Statement On Death Of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Photo by: Reuters/Ciro De Luca

After the sudden death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on New Year’s Eve, thousands of people flocked to St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday in order to pay their respects to the first pope in hundreds of years to retire from the position.

The Vatican has estimated that over 65,000 have gone to the church on the first full day of viewing to pay their respects to the departed pope, far more than the 25,000 to 30,000 predicted by the Italian police to come to the area to pay their respects, according to the Associated Press.

The public viewings will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday for 12 hours each, before the actual funeral of Benedict XVI–whose former name was Joseph Ratzinger–will be buried in a “solemn but simple” funeral underneath St. Peter's Basilica in the Papal Tombs, Deutsche Welle reported.

A small procession took place before Benedict’s body was laid at the church for viewing, when his body was transferred from the small chapel in which he died. His secretary Archbishop Georg Gaenswein and some of the “consecrated laywomen” who served in his household followed the procession before his body was taken by 10 Papal Gentlemen to the Basilica.

Ratzinger, who was born in Bavaria in Germany, served as the Archbishop of Munich until 1982. After being elevated to the position of pope in 2005, he shocked the Catholic world by resigning from the position due to his health, an unheard-of action that garnered criticism at the time from more hardcore Catholic priests in the church, but has been received better over time.

“This resignation wasn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength, a greatness because he saw that he was no longer up to the challenges of being pope,” Cardinal Walter Kasper said.

He was also well-known for becoming the pope just as the many cases of abuse and crimes of church clergymen around the world had come to light, for which he has been criticized for his lackluster response to the matter.

After his resignation, multiple cases of sexual abuse were found to have happened under the German church during his time as archbishop. He admitted in 2022 that he had also made false statements regarding a case of abuse in the German Catholic Church, but has also claimed that he did not do so to cover up the crimes.

Body of former Pope Benedict is on public display at St. Peter's Basilica
Body of former Pope Benedict is on public display at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Photo by: Reuters/Vatican Media

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