Thousands attend Vatican funeral for Pope Benedict XVI

Hours before the funer­al of Pope Emer­i­tus Bene­dict XVI, sched­uled to begin at 9:30 a.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET), crowds had gath­ered at the Vat­i­can to attend.

Mourn­ers gath­ered in St. Peter’s Square before Mass offi­ci­at­ed by Pope Fran­cis. An event in which a sit­ting pope pre­sides over his pre­de­ces­sor’s farewell is unprece­dent­ed in mod­ern times.

Bene­dict, who died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95, shocked the Catholic Church in 2013 when he became the first pope to retire in 600 years. He hand­ed over the papa­cy to Fran­cis, who was seen as a more reformed leader.

Bene­dict was not head of state at the time of his death, so only two coun­tries, Italy and his native Ger­many, sent offi­cial del­e­ga­tions to his funer­al. How­ev­er, oth­er world lead­ers and roy­al­ty are expect­ed to attend in pri­vate capacity.

In order to ensure the safe­ty of the event, more than 1,000 Ital­ian secu­ri­ty guards are deployed at the Holy See, and a strict secu­ri­ty sys­tem is in place, with the air­space closed all day.

Near­ly 200,000 peo­ple paid their respects to the Pope’s body, which lay in St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca from Mon­day to Wednes­day evening.

The pope’s body was placed in a sim­ple wood­en cof­fin in prepa­ra­tion for his funer­al. After the funer­al, the cof­fin is moved inside the basil­i­ca, cov­ered with zinc and sealed in a sec­ond wood­en coffin.

Bene­dict was buried in an under­ground cave in the Vat­i­can at his request.

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