Vatican preparations underway for Benedict XVI's funeral

Pope Francis will preside over the funeral of his predecessor Benedict XVI on Thursday, it has been announced.

On New Year's Eve Francis kept with tradition and visited the nativity scene in St. Peter's Square, despite Benedict's death earlier in the day.

From Monday, the first German pope of the modern era will lie in state in St Peter's Basilica.

Joseph Ratzinger, as he was then known, taught theology in the medieval Bavarian city of Regensburg and there the catholic faithful have been remembering him.

"He was really a great man in my eyes," said churchgoer Anneliese Nietsch. "I always had a lot of admiration for his knowledge and his aura. We were in Rome the year he became Pope, quite a memory!"

"It was a great surprise, a great joy and a great pride that the Pope came from Bavaria," said Karlheinz Denner, another churchgoer. "And that he had worked for many years in Regensburg. We were also present during his visit in 2006 to Bismarckplatz, and we cheered."

A candlelit vigil has been held in the Bavarian town of Altoetting. Benedict visited it many times as a pilgrim to pray to a famous statue of the Virgin Mary.