Opportunity to say goodbye to Pope Benedict draws thousands

Thousands of people lined outside St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Monday to pay their last respects to Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, who died on Saturday at the age of 95 and is now in state.

The long line – a mix of Roman Catholic worshipers and tourists – moved steadily, meandering through the square in front of the basilica and along the street leading to it under overcast skies.

“I really wanted to say goodbye to him,” said mourner Anna Angelini, 85, who hitchhiked for 90 minutes with a neighbor from her home outside Rome. “This pope, I hold him in my heart.”

Benedict led the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics from 2005 to 2013. He stunned the world a decade ago when he announced he would retire, the first pope to do so in some 600 years , citing his declining physical and mental state.

Inside St. Peter’s, Benedict rested on a simple platform in front of the main altar, dressed in traditional red and white clothes, his hands crossed under a rosary. He did not have a pallium, the garment symbolizing the authority of archdiocesan bishops because it was “a symbol of jurisdiction not normally used for a retired prelate,” according to the Vatican website Vatican News. There were no other papal regalia or regalia, such as the silver staff with a crucifix.

Two Swiss Guards in their colorful uniforms stood to attention as mourners passed the dais, some making the sign of the cross. The Swiss Guards protect the pope and his residence.

The speed at which the line moved made the prayers necessarily brief. A group of faithful recited the Our Father in front of the body of the Pope, some took photographs of Benedict, but also of the main apse and the transept of the basilica, with works by the Baroque architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Luciano Ippoliti, a 61-year-old high school teacher in Rome, knelt and signed himself, keeping his eyes on the body as security guards urged mourners to proceed quickly.

“I said, ‘Thank you,'” Mr Ippoliti said. “I owed him.”


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