In a New Year’s Day service on Sunday, Pope Francis hailed the “beloved” Benedict XVI as the Vatican released the first pictures of the former pontiff following his death at the age of 95.
Official photos have shown the German-born Benedict XVI body on a catafalque in the chapel of the monastery in the Vatican grounds where he spent the last decade of his life after retiring.
But he is not wearing the pallium, a vestment reserved for sitting popes.
In 2013, Pope Benedict became the first pontiff in six centuries to resign and died on Saturday after years of declining health.
His body will be moved on Monday morning to St Peter’s Basilica, where for three days the public will be able to pay their respects before a funeral on Thursday overseen by Pope Francis.
“Today we entrust the beloved pope emeritus Benedict XVI to the most holy mother (the Virgin Mary), to accompany him in his passage from this world to God,” Pope Francis said at a mass for peace at St Peter’s Basilica. .
“Let us all join together, with one heart and one soul, in thanking God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the Church,” he added.
The Vatican has said that Benedict’s funeral will be “solemn but simple”, after which he will be buried in the papal tombs under St Peter’s Basilica.
In 2005, Pope John Paul II’s papal funeral drew a million faithful and heads of state from around the world.
Described as a brilliant theologian, Pope Benedict has alienated many Catholics with his staunch defense of traditional (conservative) values, and as pope struggled to impose his authority on the church as it battled a string of crises, including over clerical sex abuse.
Tributes to the former-pontiff have poured in from around the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the late Pope as a “defender of traditional Christian values”, while Catholic US President Joe Biden, who praised Benedict’s “devotion to the Church
Pope Francis has raised the prospect that he might follow Benedict’s example and step down if he became unable to carry out his duties. In July, he is reportedly suffering from knee problems that have forced him to rely on a wheelchair. He admitted he needed to slow down or think about stepping aside.
The Argentine also revealed that in early December, he had signed a resignation letter when he took office should poor health prevent him from carrying out his duties.
The former church head was born on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, in Bavaria, Benedict. He was 78 years old when became the first German pope of the modern era, an election he later said felt “like the guillotine”.
Unlike his successor, Pope Benedict was more at home with his books, a cat-lover who delighted in study and playing the piano. He was dubbed “God’s Rottweiler” in a previous post as chief doctrinal enforcer, and fiercely defended traditional Catholic teaching on abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage. As pope he struggled to contain numerous scandals in the church.
Benedict was the first pope to meet with victims of clerical child sex abuses, although critics said he did not go far enough in addressing the problem and decades of cover-ups.