VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s last words were “Lord, I love you,” his longtime secretary said Sunday, citing a nurse who helped treat the 95-year-old former pontiff at his last hours.
Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, a German prelate who lives at the Vatican monastery where Benedict made his home after his retirement in 2013, said the nurse heard Benedict say those words around 3 a.m. Saturday. The retired pope died that morning.
“Benedict XVI, in a low voice but in a very unique way, said in Italian: ‘Lord, I love you,'” Gaenswein told official Vatican media, adding that it happened when the assistants who care for Benoît changes teams.
“I wasn’t there at the time, but the nurse said it later,” the archbishop said. “These were his last intelligible words, because then he could no longer express himself.”
Gaenswein did not identify the nurse who shared the information.
Earlier, the Vatican said Pope Francis went to pay his respects immediately after Gaenswein called to inform him of Benedict’s death shortly after 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis stayed at Benedict’s monastery for several hours before returning to his residence in a hotel opposite the Vatican gardens.
During Sunday’s New Year’s celebration, Francis prayed for his predecessor’s passage to heaven and expressed his gratitude for Benedict’s life of service to the church.
Francis briefly left the reading of his homily at a morning mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to pray aloud for Benedict.
“Today we entrust our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to our Blessed Mother, to be with him in his passage from this world to God,” he said.
The basilica is expected to house Benedict’s casket for a three-day visit beginning Monday.
Rome prefect Bruno Frattasi, an interior ministry official, told Italian state television that “at least 25,000 to 30,000” mourners were expected to attend the coffin on Monday.
On Sunday, Benedict’s body lay in a burgundy coffin in the chapel of the monastery where he lived during his nearly ten-year retirement. He wears a miter, a bishop’s hat and a garment similar to a red cloak.
A rosary was placed in his hand. Behind him, in images released by the Vatican, can be seen the altar of the chapel and a decorated Christmas tree.
Francis remembered Benedict again on Sunday when he addressed thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square. He told the crowd that “at this time we ask for his intercession, especially for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who yesterday morning left this world.”
“Let us all be united, with one heart and one soul, to thank God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the Church,” said Francis, addressing the pilgrims and tourists from the window of the Apostolic Palace. . under.
The square will be the site for Benoît’s funeral presided over by François on Thursday morning. The service will be simple, the Vatican said, in keeping with Benedict XVI’s wishes. Before being elected pope in 2005, Benedict XVI was a German cardinal who was the guardian of the Church’s doctrinal orthodoxy.
In recent years, Francis has praised Benedict’s extraordinary decision to become the first pope to step down in 600 years and made it clear that he would consider such a move as an option for himself.
Because of knee pain, Francis, 86, arrived at the basilica in a wheelchair on Sunday and sat in a chair for the mass celebrated by the Vatican secretary of state.
Francis, who has repeatedly denounced the war in Ukraine and its damages, remembered the victims of the war, who spend the end of the year in darkness, cold and fear.
“At the beginning of this year, we need hope, just as the Earth needs rain,” Francis said in his homily.
In addressing the believers in St. Peter’s Square, the pope spoke of the “intolerable” war in Ukraine, which began more than 10 months ago, and conflicts elsewhere in the world.
Still, Francis said, “let us not lose hope” that peace will prevail.
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