Thousands pay respects as former pope Benedict XVI lies in state at Vatican

© Vatican Media handout via Reuters

Thousands of Catholics began paying their respects Monday to former pope Benedict XVI at St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, at the start of three days of lying-in-state before his funeral.

The queue began to form before dawn in the square in front of the basilica, where Benedict's body was transferred earlier from the monastery in the Vatican grounds where he died Saturday aged 95.

"I arrived at 6:00 am, it seemed normal to come and pay homage to him after all he did for the church," said an Italian nun, sister Anna-Maria, who was in the early morning queue.

Benedict led the Catholic Church for eight years before becoming the first pope in six centuries to step down in 2013, citing his declining and physical health.

His successor Pope Francis will lead the funeral on Thursday in St Peter's Square before his remains are laid to rest in the tombs beneath the Basilica. Benedict, a German theologian, died at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, which had been his home for the past decade.

The Vatican on Sunday released photos of his corpse, dressed in red papal mourning robes and wearing a gold-edged mitre on his head, on a catafalque in the monastery chapel.

The Vatican has yet to release details of the guest list, beyond saying that it will include delegations from Italy and Benedict's native Germany.

'Faithful servant'


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