Mourners poured into St. Peter’s Square early Thursday for the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to pay their final respects to the German theologian who made history by retiring and to participate in a rare requiem Mass for a dead pontiff presided over by a living one.
Thick fog shrouded the Vatican before dawn as police manned metal detectors and barricades and herded well-wishers into the square. Heads of state and royalty, clergy from around the world and thousands of faithful are flocking to the Vatican, despite Benedict’s requests for simplicity and official efforts to keep the first funeral for an pope emeritus in modern times low-key.
Many hailed from Benedict’s native Bavaria and donned traditional dress, including boiled wool coats to guard against the morning chill.
“We came to pay homage to Benedict and wanted to be here today to say goodbye,” said Raymond Mainar, who traveled from a small village east of Munich for the funeral. “He was a very good pope.”
The former Joseph Ratzinger, who died December 31 aged 95, is considered one of the 20th century’s greatest theologians and spent his lifetime upholding church doctrine. But he will go down in history for a singular, revolutionary act that changed the future of the papacy.