Pope Benedict XVI: The process of lying in state at the Vatican begins

Tens of thousands of people are expected to pay their respects to former Pope Benedict XVI when his state funeral begins later at the Vatican.

He died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95, nearly a decade after stepping down due to illness.

Pope Francis will preside over the funeral on Thursday, marking the first time a Pope will be buried by his successor.

As the sun rose over the Vatican, a line was already forming on the outskirts of St Peter’s Square.

Father Alfredo Elnar, 30, of the Philippines, was at the very front. He claimed to have studied and admired the former pontiff’s theological writings and to have felt an emptiness since his death.

Sister Marianna Patricevic, a Croatian nun, spoke a little further back about how grateful she was for everything the late Pope had done, saying there was not a subject she studied at university where they did not discuss his views.

Father Richard Kunst, who is visiting from the United States, said he would pray for the Pope, but also for a miracle to help a friend at home who is dying of cancer.

In 2013, Benedict XVI became the first Pope in 600 years to resign, citing ill health.

His body will be displayed in an open casket at St. Peter’s Basilica for three days, with people able to pay their respects until 7 p.m. each evening.

The Pope Emeritus will be laid to rest in the tombs beneath the Basilica after his funeral in St Peter’s Square.

On Sunday, the Vatican released images of the body, which was dressed in red papal mourning robes and a gold-trimmed mitre.

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