By Courtney Mares and Hannah Brockhaus
The mortal remains of Benedict XVI were moved early Monday morning to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the late pope will lie in state through Jan. 4.
Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, presided over a brief ritual after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s body was carried up the center aisle of the basilica at 7:15 a.m.
The cardinal solemnly incensed the body and sprinkled it with holy water as a choir chanted sung prayers offered for the repose of his soul.
Benedict XVI is lying in state directly in front of the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, above the tomb of the Church’s first pope, St. Peter.
The former pope was dressed in red and gold vestments and wearing a gold miter. Popes are traditionally dressed in red for their funerals.
Benedict XVI had his rosary in his folded hands. He was wearing ordinary black clerical shoes, not the red shoes he famously wore during his reign.
Thousands of people waited in a long line on Jan. 2 to enter the basilica, some waiting before sunrise, to pray and pay their respects to Benedict XVI, who led the Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013.
Giancarlo Rossi, who lives in Rome, joined the line at 7:45 a.m. He was praying a rosary for Benedict while waiting for the opportunity to pay his respects.
“I met him a few times — I am from here. And so I came to greet the pope for the last time,” he told CNA. “And I am praying for him. I offered my Mass for him and I will ask for a plenary indulgence for him, as well.”
Father Alexander Lashuk, a Byzantine Catholic priest from Toronto, another early arrival, told CNA that the line to see the late pope “was the usual Roman chaos, but when you entered St. Peter’s it turned into a great hush.”
“People of all ages and from all over the world approached a dead father. You could hear whispers of the rosary. I was very blessed to be in Rome these days,” he said.
Lashuk reflected: “I am part of that generation that was really impacted by Benedict XVI — certainly as pontiff but even before his election through his theological writings that really planted seeds of our vocations. I know many people who were drawn to seminary or even became Catholic after encountering his writings.”
Religious sisters, priests, and families took time to pause and pray in front of Benedict’s body throughout the day on Monday. Some were visibly moved to shedding tears. Others remained silent or quietly prayed the rosary.
Two Swiss Guards flanked Benedict’s body and some mourners were able to kneel and pray on either side of the deceased pope.
The public will be able to view his body until 7 p.m. in the days leading up to his funeral on Jan. 5. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the basilica will open earlier at 7 a.m., allowing 12 hours each day for the faithful to say their final goodbyes to the beloved former pope.
St. Peter’s Basilica is continuing to hold Masses at the Altar of the Chair throughout the day immediately behind where Benedict XVI is lying in state.
Following the funeral for Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square, the late pope’s remains will be entombed in the Vatican crypt under St. Peter’s Basilica.