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Thousands of Catholics pay respects to ex-pope Benedict XVI

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Thousands of Catholics have begun queueing at the Vatican to pay their respects to the former pope Benedict XVI, with some hoping he would be canonized as a saint. Benedict died on Saturday, aged 95, and his body was transferred from a Vatican monastery to St Peter’s Basilica on Monday at 7 am, where it will lie in state for three days before his funeral on Thursday. Rome officials anticipate that at least 35,000 people a day will descend on the Vatican to pay their respects to Benedict, who almost a decade ago became the first pope to resign in 600 years, with many traveling from overseas. Many of those who joined the queue early on Monday to see Benedict’s body, which has been dressed in red papal mourning robes, were priests and nuns who waited alongside Catholic devotees or those who were already visiting Rome and wanted to pay tribute.“The queue is moving pretty steadily, and there is a calm and serene atmosphere,” said Christopher White, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

“Those who were queuing for hours before things opened up are the type of people who had a strong devotion to him. For a certain type of Catholic, Benedict had quite a draw. He had a reputation as an intellect, scholar, and theologian, which resonated with the more theologically-minded conservative Catholic. Their immediate pivot is that he is one of the greatest minds the church has ever had, and they have every confidence that he will one day be a saint.” Among the first people to enter St Peter’s Basilica, where Benedict’s body has been laid out on a casket covered with a gold cloth in front of the altar, were the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, and the prime minister, Giorgia Meloni. In one of his most controversial essays, published in 2019, Benedict blamed the church’s sexual abuse scandals on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and “homosexual cliques” among priests. His opinion came two months after an unprecedented Vatican summit on tackling clerical sexual abuse and sharply contrasted with that of Pope Francis, who blamed the scandals on a clerical culture that elevates priests above the laity.

Meanwhile, the results of a German investigation published in January last year said Benedict had failed to act against four priests accused of child sexual abuse during his time as archbishop of Munich. Peter Seewald, a German journalist who wrote four books based on a series of interviews with Benedict, said that although the former pope had many enemies, he also had many followers. “That’s why you see so many people waiting in line,” says Seewald. “It is often overlooked that he was the most widely read and best-known theologian of our time. His books have sold in the millions and for many Christians, he is a modern lighthouse. It has become. “Someone said the last decade was a disaster,” White said. “Others praised Benedict, calling him a saint who kept his composure in this difficult time.”

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