More than 60,000 people attend Benedict XVI’s funeral at the Vatican.

Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s body lay in state in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday, his head resting on a pair of red pillows, as tens of thousands waited to pay their respects to the pontiff who rocked the world by retiring a decade ago.

On the eve of the first of three days of viewing, Italian security officials predicted that between 25,000 and 30,000 people would attend. However, the Vatican reported that at the end of the first day of viewing, around 65,000 people had passed by the bier.

After arriving at the basilica, ten white-gloved Papal Gentlemen – lay assistants to pontiffs and papal households – carried the body on a cloth-covered wooden stretcher to its final resting place in front of the main altar under Bernini’s towering bronze canopy.

A Swiss Guard saluted as Benedict’s body was brought in through a side entrance from the chapel of the monastery grounds, where the increasingly fragile, 95-year-old former pontiff died on Saturday morning.

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, his longstanding secretary, and a small group of consecrated laywomen who worked in Benedict’s household followed the van on foot for a few hundred yards toward the basilica. Some of the women reached out a respectful hand to touch the body.

Before the rank-and-file faithful were permitted into the basilica, prayers were chanted, and the archpriest of the basilica, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, sprinkled holy water over the body, as well as released a small cloud of incense around the bier. Benedict had his hands clasped, a rosary wrapped around his fingers.

The doors of the basilica were swung open shortly after 9 a.m. (0800 GMT) so that the people, some of whom had waited for hours in the pre-dawn damp, could pay their respects to the late pontiff, who retired from the papacy in 2013 – the first pope to do so in 600 years.

After waiting in a line that snaked around St. Peter’s Square by midmorning, the faithful and curious moved briskly up the center aisle to pass past the bier with its fabric hanging.

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