His successor Francis praises the deceased Benedict as a “master of catechesis”, whom he bids farewell to at least 60,000 mourners. For the first time in 200 years, a sitting pope will bury a former pope. Chancellor Scholz will also take part in the requiem.

After three days of public laying out of Benedict XVI. The Vatican has made the final preparations for the funeral service for the Pope Emeritus. Before the German was to be put in the coffin on Wednesday evening, thousands of believers and many churchmen came to St. Peter’s Basilica to say goodbye. Cardinal and Archbishop of Cologne Rainer Maria Woelki from Germany prayed in front of Benedict’s body. The Pope Emeritus was a great supporter of Woelkis. Woelki, who has been heavily criticized for months, is one of a delegation of almost a dozen bishops from Germany who are present at the funeral service on Thursday on St. Peter’s Square.

The heads of the German constitutional bodies – including Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz – as well as several other heads of state and government, top politicians, around 3700 priests and probably several tens of thousands of believers will also take part in the requiem from 9.30 a.m. After the public ceremony, Benedict is buried in the papal grotto below St. Peter’s Basilica, closed to the public.

Pope Francis praised his predecessor for his theological work. “The depth of Joseph’s thought, based on Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, is of help to us today,” wrote the head of the Catholic Church in the foreword of a forthcoming book on Benedict’s spiritual thinking. The 86-year-old wrote that Benedict’s “unremitting devotion” and “enlightened teaching” have merged. “Benedict XVI did theology on his knees,” said Francis, dedicating himself completely to God. “We thank God for giving us Benedict XVI.”

At the general audience on Wednesday, Francis described Papa Emeritus, who died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95, as a “great master of catechesis”, i.e. a mediator and explainer of the Christian faith. “His sharp and polite thinking was not self-centered, but ecclesiastical, because he always wanted to accompany us to meet Jesus,” said Francis, showing his connection to the people who went to see Benedict in St. Peter’s Basilica. After around 135,000 believers walked past Benedict’s body on Monday and Tuesday, the Vatican gendarmerie reported around 24,000 other people in the large basilica on Wednesday afternoon.

Benedict’s longtime secretary and confidante Georg Gänswein was also in front of the sanctuary of the cathedral and greeted some clergymen who had come to Rome. Around 1,000 security forces are deployed in Rome for the funeral service on Thursday. There is a no-fly zone over the Vatican. According to forecasts by the prefecture, more than 60,000 mourners are expected. However, the number could be significantly higher, especially since almost twice as many people came than predicted during the days of the public laying-out.

For the historic event – for the first time in more than 200 years, an incumbent pope will bury a former pope – more than 1000 media representatives are accredited. In 1802, Pope Pius VII celebrated the funeral mass in the Vatican for his predecessor Pius VI, who died in exile in 1799 and was only brought to Rome later.