Pope Benedict XVI, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 95, remained lucid until close to the end of his life, Vatican sources have said.
The deceased pope’s last words were recorded by the nurse who was caring for him at approximately 3 a.m. on Dec. 31. At the time, he required constant care but had not yet become incoherent.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, told Vatican News, “With just a whisper of a voice, but in a clearly distinguishable manner, [Benedict] said in Italian, ‘Lord, I love you!’ I was not there at the moment, but the nurse told me about it shortly afterwards.”
He added, “These were his last comprehensible words, because afterwards he was no longer able to express himself.”
The Vatican announced Benedict had passed away Saturday at 9:34 a.m. He was 95 years old.
The late pontiff’s body is currently being held in Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican City, where he spent the majority of his life post-papacy.
On the eve of the first day of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s body being available for viewing, Italian police predicted 30,000 visitors. By the end of the evening, 65,000 people passed through St. Peter’s Basilica.
As the day began 10 Papal Gentlemen – lay assistants of the Pope – carried the body on a cloth covered wooden stretcher to its resting place in front of the main altar.
Before the general populace were allowed into the basilica, prayers were recited and the basilica’s archpriest, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, sprinkled holy water over the body. Benedict’s hands were clasped, a rosary around his fingers.
On Monday, the Vatican confirmed widely reported burial plans. In keeping with his wishes, Benedict’s tomb will be in the crypt of the grotto under the basilica that was last used by St. John Paul II, before the saint’s body was moved upstairs into the main basilica ahead of his 2011 beatification, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.
On Jan. 5, Pope Francis will preside over the late pontiff’s funeral mass in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican stated.
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