Around 200,000 people attend lying in state of Pope Benedict XVI

People pay their respects to former Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City on 4 January

Almost 200,000 people paid homage to former Pope Benedict XVI during his lying in state over the last three days, the Vatican says.

His body has been sealed in a coffin ahead of his funeral on Thursday.

Pope Francis will preside over the funeral – the first time a sitting Pope has led his predecessor’s funeral in over 220 years, the Vatican says.

The former Pope died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95, almost a decade after standing down because of ill-health.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the funeral in St Peter’s Square, in front of St Peter’s Basilica, at 9:30 local time.

The event will be marked by simplicity, in line with what Benedict had asked for, the Vatican says.

Because Benedict was no longer a head of state when he died, only official delegations from Italy and Benedict’s native Germany will attend.

Other leaders will be there in unofficial capacities – including King Philippe of Belgium and Queen Letizia of Spain, as well as the leaders of Poland and Hungary, the Catholic news agency reports.

The Pope Emeritus will be laid to rest in the tombs beneath the Basilica – where more than 90 pontiffs are buried – according to his final wishes.

Before being laid in the crypt, his body will be sealed in a zinc coffin, which will then be put in a wooden case. Items symbolising his time in the papacy will also be placed alongside his body.

A day of national mourning has been declared in Portugal, while in Italy flags will be flown at half-mast on public buildings throughout the country.

Church bells will ring at 11:00 in Germany to commemorate the German-born former Pope’s memory.

In 2013, Benedict became the first Pope in more than 600 years to step down.

During the past three days of lying in state, mourners travelled from all over the world to pay their respects to the former Pope.

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