The Vatican released on Sunday the first photos of the body of Benedict XVI, who died on Saturday at the age of 95 and whose memory was once again hailed by his successor Francis.
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We see the deceased pope lying on a catafalque, dressed in red (the color of papal mourning) and wearing a white miter adorned with a golden braid, a rosary in his hands.
The catafalque is placed in the center of a small private chapel of the monastery where he lived since his renunciation in 2013, located in the heart of the Vatican gardens. A crucifix, a Christmas tree and a nativity scene are visible in the background.
Cardinals also prayed in front of the body of Joseph Ratzinger, according to a photo posted on social media.
"We entrust the beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to the Most Holy Mother (the Virgin Mary) to accompany him from this world to God," the Argentine pontiff said Sunday during a mass at the Basilica of Saint -Peter of Rome.
"A great man"
At midday, the pope again paid homage to “this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the Church”, on the occasion of the weekly Angelus prayer. He spoke from the window of the apostolic palace in front of some 40,000 faithful gathered under the sun, place Saint-Pierre. He then observed a moment of silence.
"I respect him a lot: he was a great man, simple and humble," Paola Filippa, a 58-year-old Italian teacher present in the crowd, told AFP.
Brilliant theologian and fervent guardian of dogma, Benedict XVI, who had announced that he would give up his charge because of his declining strength, died peacefully on Saturday morning.
The funeral celebrated by Francis for his predecessor, head of the Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013, will be an unprecedented event in the two thousand year history of the Catholic Church.
“We are planning to come” for this funeral, for which “a lot of people will come from abroad”, told AFP Luca Scotti, a 58-year-old Roman present on Sunday in Saint-Pierre square.
The public will already be able to gather from Monday morning to Wednesday evening in front of the body of Joseph Ratzinger, which will be transferred from the Ardent Chapel to Saint Peter's Basilica. The first German pope in modern history will be buried in a crypt in the basilica after his funeral.
From United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to French Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, tributes from leaders around the world poured in on Saturday.
"He will be remembered as a distinguished theologian, guided by his principles and his faith, and whose entire life was dedicated to his devotion to the Church," said US President Joe Biden.
His death puts an end to the unusual cohabitation of two men in white: on the one hand the German Joseph Ratzinger, a brilliant theologian not very comfortable with crowds, on the other the Argentinian Jorge Bergoglio, a Jesuit endowed with an incisive word that wanted to put the poor and migrants back at the center of the Church's mission.
After his eight years of a pontificate marked by multiple crises, Benedict XVI had been caught up in early 2022 by the drama of pedocrime in the Church. Questioned by a report in Germany on his management of sexual violence when he was Archbishop of Munich, he broke his silence to ask for "pardon" but assured that he had never covered up a child criminal.
With his renunciation, unprecedented in six centuries, Benedict XVI opened the way to his successors whose strength would come to decline.
VIH to Vatileak
Francois, 86 and suffering from knee pain, left the possibility “open” himself. He revealed in December that he had already signed a letter of resignation in case his health prevented him from assuming his role.
Born in 1927, Joseph Ratzinger taught theology for 25 years in Germany before being appointed Archbishop of Munich.
He then became the strict guardian of the dogma of the Church for another quarter of a century in Rome at the head of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, then pope for eight years, succeeding John Paul II.
Last pope to have participated in the Second Vatican Council, he however defended a conservative line at the head of the Church, in particular on abortion, homosexuality or euthanasia.
His statements have sometimes shocked, such as on Islam or the use of condoms against HIV.
His pontificate was also marked in 2012 by the leak of confidential documents (“Vatileaks”) orchestrated by his butler. The scandal had exposed a Roman Curia (Vatican government) plagued by intrigue and devoid of financial rigor.