Thousands of faithful parade, Monday, January 2, in the basilica Saint-Pierre in Rome. Three days of meditation were organized after the death of former Pope Benedict XVI.

In the central nave of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (Italy), a long procession formed on Monday, January 2, to pay homage to Pope Benedict XVI. Among the visitors, many take out their phones to capture the few moments spent in front of the body of the former sovereign pontiff. 60,000 people marched during the day, mostly Italians but also French. Most are on vacation in Rome but are aware of having lived through a historic moment. “I feel quite moved and the place is so mystical too,” says a Frenchwoman.

The funeral will be celebrated on Thursday

Attendance is higher than expected. During his lifetime, Benedict XVI aroused mixed feelings, but today many insist on the sacrifice he made by resigning. “He is known for his great humility,” says Vatican scholar Anna Kurian. Early this morning, the relatives of the former pope had time to say goodbye to him, the only private stage of his funeral. “The funeral of Pope Benedict XVI will be celebrated Thursday in St. Peter’s Square,” said Alban Mikoczy, special envoy to Rome.