On Monday, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ’s body lay in state at St. Peter’s Basilica as some 65,000 persons came to pay their respects to the pontiff. Benedict’s body was brought to its resting place in front of the main altar under Bernini’s canopy and a rosary was placed in his grasp. Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German theologian like Benedict, was one of the thousands who came to St Peter’s and told the AP, “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.” Benedict’s resignation gave “a more human vision to the papacy: that the pope is a man and is dependent on his physical and mental strengths,” added Kasper.
Pope Francis provided his own words of praise to the pontiff, saying, “With deep feeling, we recall his person, so noble, so gentle. And we feel in the heart so much gratitude: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world. Gratitude to him, for all the good he did, and above all for his witness of faith and of prayer, especially in these last years of withdrawn life.”
Other notable people and world leaders who filed through the doors of St Peter’s on Monday included American Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Sean Patrick O’Malley and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Francis will celebrate a simple funeral, which was requested by Benedict, on Thursday morning according to the Vatican. Only official delegations from Italy and Benedict’s native Germany were invited to the funeral. A written account of the history-making papacy of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will be placed alongside his body in his coffin for burial.
It is reported that the last words Benedict whispered to his nurse before passing was “Lord, I love you!” Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, told Vatican News:
“With just a whisper of a voice, but in a clearly distinguishable manner, [Benedict] said in Italian, ‘Lord, I love you!’ I was not there at the moment, but the nurse told me about it shortly afterwards.”