Vatican City: The doors to St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican opened on Monday to allow the thousands of people queued up outside the chance to pay their respects to the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on New Year's Eve at the age of 95.
The body of the German former pope, who stepped down from the role in 2013, is lying in state for three days before his funeral.
People began gathering outside the Basilica at dawn before the doors opened. The public will be allowed to view the body for ten hours on Monday, while twelve hours are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Vatican has not yet released the guest list for Benedict's funeral aside from the fact that it will include delegations from Italy as well as Germany — where Benedict, formerly Josef Ratzinger, was born.
He will be buried in the papal tombs under St Peter's Basilica in a "solemn but simple" funeral, the Vatican has said.
Officials said they are expecting around 25,000 people to come and pay their respects to the pope, who was considered by many an expert theologian but also a divisive and highly conservative figure in the Catholic Church.
The funeral for Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in 2005 was attended by a million people, including heads of states from around the world.
Born in the German state of Bavaria, Ratzinger served as Archbishop of Munich until 1982. He left Germany to head up the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), one of the oldest bodies in the Catholic Church which seeks to defend Roman Catholic doctrine.
He was named pope in 2005 but ruled during a time when scandals and allegations of sexual abuse were rife.
Benedict came under fire for failing to respond to the numerous revelations of widespread abuse before he retired, citing health issues.
The former pope also admitted in early 2022 to having made a false statement during an investigation into sexual abuse within the German Catholic Church but rejected claims that he had tried to cover up cases of abuse.