Benedict’s admirers flock to Vatican to pay their last respects

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6-year-old Miriam Groppelli, an altar server from Milan, was just one of the thousands of visitors who came to pay their respects to the late Pope Benedict XVI when the doors of St. Peter’s Basilica opened before dawn on Tuesday morning.

She and her father, Giuseppe Groppelli, 40, travelled by train in the early hours to offer their homage, along with the child’s grandparents, and older brother and sisters.

On Monday, the first day the general public could view the body, around 65,000 mourners filed through the Vatican to see the Pontiff lying in state, double the number Italian security officials had predicted. The third day of viewing is set for Wednesday.

On Thursday, Pope Francis will lead the funeral mass at St. Peter’s Square for his predecessor

Benedict, who as German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had served for decades at the Vatican as the church’s guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy, was known for his theological knowledge and his eloquent speeches, which, unlike many of his predecessors, he wrote himself.

Since Benedict was no longer the head of the Vatican City State when he died, only two countries, Italy and his native Germany will send official delegations to his funeral.

Political leaders and royalty, especially from predominantly Catholic countries, are also expected to attend in a private role.

With no need to elect a new pontiff following this former Pope’s death, cardinals who attend the funeral won’t be staying on to meet in a secret conclave to pick the man who will help shape the Church’s direction.

In a possible reflection of the absence of immediate intrigue that usually builds before a conclave, Francis has mostly conducted business as usual since Benedict’s death.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s longtime personal secretary has written a tell-all book that his publisher on Monday promised would tell the truth about the “blatant calumnies, dark manoeuvres,” mysteries and scandals that sullied the reputation of a pontiff best known for his historic resignation.

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein’s “Nothing but the Truth: My Life Beside Pope Benedict XVI” is being published this month by the Piemme of Italian publishing giant Mondadori, according to a press release.

Gaenswein, a 66-year-old German priest, stood by Benedict’s side for nearly three decades, first as an official working for then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then starting in 2003 as Ratzinger’s secretary.

He remained Benedict’s gatekeeper, confidant and protector during a decade-long retirement, while also serving until recently as the prefect of Francis’ papal household. It was Gaenswein who celebrated the sacrament of the anointing of the sick last Wednesday when Benedict’s health deteriorated, and it was he who called Francis on Saturday to tell him that Benedict had died.

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