Funeral services for former Pope Benedict XVI, who died Saturday at the age of 95, began Monday at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican ahead of his burial later this week.
Benedict, who was the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign his post rather than serve for life, died on Dec. 31 in a Vatican monastery, according to a Vatican statement.
He was elected Pope in April 2005 after the death of John Paul II.
The former pope’s body was moved from the cloister to St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday morning, where it was put on display for the faithful to say goodbye, the Vatican said. Nearly 40,000 people had paid their respects to the former pontiff as of 2 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET) on Monday, according to Vatican police.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President Sergio Mattarella were among those who paid their respects as Benedict lay in state.
Watch Pope Benedict’s most memorable moments
Mourners waiting in line in St. Peter’s Square told CNN they wanted to pay their respects to the former pope.
“We’re just here to pray, to thank God for the life of Pope Benedict,” said Paul, a student from Scotland.
“Besides his theology, which was very important to the Church, I think all the time he spent in retirement praying for the Church was a very great testimony to all of us.”
Benedict’s funeral will be held at 9:30 a.m. local time Thursday in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, according to Holy See press director Matteo Bruni. The funeral will be led by Pope Francis. In keeping with Benedict’s wishes, his funeral will be “simple,” Bruni said.
Francis paid tribute to his predecessor as he led the Angelus prayer on Sunday.
“In particular, this greeting goes to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who passed away yesterday morning. We salute him as a faithful minister of the gospel,” he said.
Benedict is known to be more conservative than his successor, Pope Francis, who took steps to soften the Vatican’s stance on abortion and homosexuality, as well as doing more to address the sexual-abuse crisis that has engulfed the church in recent years and clouded Benedict’s legacy.
He stunned Catholics and religious experts around the world in 2013 when he announced plans to step down as pope, citing his “advanced age.”
In his farewell address, the outgoing pope promised to remain “hidden” from the world, but continued to speak out on religious issues in the years since his retirement, adding to tensions within the Catholic Church.
His death prompted tributes from political and religious leaders including US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Dalai Lama.
Pope Benedict XVI has done something that no pope has done in 600 years