Pope Benedict XVI lying in state at the Vatican starts


Thousands of people are expected to pay their respects to former Pope Benedict XVI at his lying in state in the Vatican.

He passed on on December 31, almost a decade after he stood down because of ill health.

Pope Francis will preside over Thursday’s funeral, the first time a Pope will be buried by his successor.

As dawn broke over the Vatican, a queue was already forming at the edge of St Peter’s Square.

At the very front was Father Alfredo Elnar, 30, from the Philippines. He said he had studied and admired the theological writings of the former pontiff, and spoke of an emptiness since his death.

A little further back, Sister Marianna Patricevic, a nun from Croatia, talked of how grateful she was for all the late pope had done – saying there was not a subject she studied at university where they did not discuss his views.

Father Richard Kunst, visiting from the US, said when he passes the Pope’s body, he would pray for him – but also for a miracle to help a friend at home who is dying of cancer.

Benedict XVI became the first Pope to resign in 600 years in 2013, citing ailing health.

His body will be displayed for three days in an open casket at St Peter’s Basilica, with people allowed to pay their respects until 7pm each evening.

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