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The beheading of former Pope Benedict XVI, who died on Saturday at the age of 95, began Monday in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican ahead of his funeral later this week.
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Benedict XVI, who was the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to step down from his post, rather than hold office for life, died Dec. 31 at a monastery in Vatican City, according to a Vatican statement.

He was elected pope in April 2005, after the death of John Paul II.

The former pope’s body was moved from the monastery to St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday morning, where it was laid out for the faithful to bid farewell, the Vatican said.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President Sergio Mattarella were among those who paid tribute to Benedict XVI.

VATICAN CITY - APRIL 24: Pope Benedict XVI leads his inaugural Mass in St. Peter's Square on April 24, 2005 in the Vatican. Thousands of pilgrims attended the Mass led by the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Watch Pope Benedict XVI’s most memorable moments

Mourners lining up in St. Peter’s Square told CNN they wanted to pay their respects to the former pope.

“We are just here to pray, to give thanks to God for the life of Pope Benedict,” said Paul, a student from Scotland.

“Besides his theology, which was very important to the Church, I think all the time he spent in retirement praying for the Church was a very great testimony to all of us.”

Benedict XVI’s funeral will be held Thursday at 9:30 a.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET) in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, according to the director of the Holy See’s press office, Matteo Bruni. The funeral will be conducted by Pope Francis. In accordance with Benedict XVI’s wishes, his funeral will be “simple”, Bruni said.

Francis paid homage to his predecessor by leading the Angelus prayer on Sunday.

People line up to pay their respects to former Pope Benedict at the Vatican on January 2, 2023, ahead of his funeral on Thursday.
The beheading of Benedict XVI began Monday in St. Peter's Basilica.

“In particular, this greeting is to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who passed away yesterday morning. We salute him as a faithful servant of the gospel,” he said.

Benedict was known to be more conservative than his successor, Pope Francis, who took steps to soften the Vatican’s stance on abortion and homosexuality, as well as to do more to address the sexual abuse crisis that has engulfed the church in recent years and clouded Benedict’s legacy.

He stunned Catholic devotees and religious experts around the world in 2013 when he announced his intention to step down as pope, citing his “advanced age”.

In his farewell address, the outgoing pope vowed to remain ‘hidden’ from the world, but he continued to speak out on religious issues in the years since his retirement, contributing to tensions within the Church Catholic.

His death prompted tributes from political and religious leaders, including US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Dalai Lama.

(FILES) This file photo taken December 29, 2012 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican shows Pope Benedict XVI waving on his arrival at the Ecumenical Christian Community of Taizé during their European meeting. Pope Benedict XVI announced on February 11, 2013 that he would step down on February 28, a Vatican spokesman told AFP, making him the first pope to do so in centuries. AFP PHOTO / FILES / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images)

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