Thousands of people lined up to see the old Pope’s body. Top news and events in EUROPE

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Thousands of people gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican to pay their respects to former Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict, the previous leader of the Catholic Church, has died at the age of 95.

Benedict went down in history as the first pope to resign from his post in 600 years of papal history.

Before entering the basilica, visitors passed through checkpoints set up under heavy security. Upon seeing the body, some of the crowd stopped to pray or attended mass held in the chapels inside the basilica.

Vatican police said 40,000 people saw the ex-pope’s body in the first five hours.

The body of Benedict, dressed in red and gold liturgical and placed on a simple pulpit, was carried shortly before dawn through the gardens of the Vatican from the monastery to the place in front of the main altar of the largest church in Christendom.

Two Swiss Guards stood at attention on either side of the body, stripped of papal insignia or vestments such as the silver scepter with a cross or the pallium around the archbishops’ necks.

These icons were presented to Pope Paul II at his funeral in 2005. It was found in the body of John Paul.

It was not clear if the papal cross or other items he used would be buried with him; however, it is interpreted that it was decided not to wear them during public service to emphasize that he was no longer a pope when he died.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Benedict was buried by Pope Benedict II before his funeral was moved to the basilica’s chapel in 2011. He announced that he would be buried of his own accord in the cellars of St. Peter’s Basilica, where John Paul was first buried in 2005.

Before the former Pope’s body was revealed to the public in the church, the first people to visit were Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Benedict will sleep here until Wednesday evening. His funeral will take place on Thursday in St. Peter’s Square, presided over by Pope Francis. The Vatican said the ceremony would be simple, solemn and dignified, in accordance with Benedict’s wishes.

The Vatican has legislation on the customs to be followed in the event of the death of an incumbent pope, but no such legislation for former popes. For this reason, it is believed that customs in the coming days may set a precedent for the funeral ceremonies of former popes.

Although there are thousands of people who come to visit the body of former Pope Benedict, Pope II. Compared to the millions who came to see the body of John Paul, this crowd was smaller.

Benedict of German origin was elected Pope on 19 April 2005 and became Pope II. He came to this post after 27 years of John Paul’s service.

Benedict made history as the first pope to step down and resign after child molestation scandals and leaking problems arose in the church during his reign.

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