Pope Francis praised Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for his “acute and gentle thought” on Wednesday at the Vatican.
“His acute and gentle thought was not self-referential, but ecclesial, because he always wanted to accompany us in the encounter with Jesus,” Francis said during remarks.
He called Benedict a “great master of catechesis.”
Thousands of people paid tribute to the late pope on the final day of the public viewing of Benedict’s body, lying in state in St. Peter’s Basilica before his funeral on Thursday.
Francis was greeted by well-wishers, shouting “Long live the pope” as he appeared for his weekly catechism appointment with the faithful.
The audience took place as tens of thousands continued to pay their respects.
From Monday through Wednesday, the Vatican said nearly 160,000 people had passed through the basilica.
Francis is due to preside over the late German pope’s funeral on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Vatican officials were to place Benedict’s body in a cypress coffin – the first of three coffins – along with a brief, written summary of his historic papacy, the coins minted during his pontificate and his pallium stoles.
After the funeral, the remains will be carried back into the basilica and the coffin will be placed into one made of zinc and another one made of oak.
That will be placed in the crypt once occupied by the tomb of St. John Paul II in the grottos underneath the basilica.
That tomb was moved upstairs into the main basilica ahead of his 2011 beatification.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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