Pope Francis will address the Catholic faithful on Sunday at the Vatican, the day after his predecessor’s death at the age of 95.
The pontiff paid tribute on Saturday to the “kind” and “noble” pope emeritus, who died nearly a decade after becoming the first head of the Catholic Church in six centuries to resign.
On Sunday, Francis will lead a service to mark the World Day of Peace in St Peter’s Basilica, before addressing the faithful in St Peter’s Square for the Angelus’ prayer at 11:00 GMT.
Preparations are underway for Benedict’s Thursday morning funeral in St. Peter’s, which Francis will preside over.
His body will lie in state for three days before that, allowing worshipers to pay their respects to a pontiff who divided Catholics with his staunch defense of traditional values.
Benedict’s funeral will be “solemn but simple,” the Vatican said, after which he will be buried in the papal tombs under St. Peter’s Basilica.
Tributes poured in from around the world on Saturday for a brilliant theologian who nevertheless struggled to impose his authority on the church as it faced a series of crises, including clergy sexual abuse.
US President Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, praised his “devotion to the Church”, while Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed him as a “defender of traditional Christian values”.
His death ended an unprecedented situation in which two “men in white” — Benedict and Francis — coexisted within the walls of the tiny city-state.
Benedict’s health had been deteriorating for a long time and he had withdrawn almost entirely from public view when the Vatican revealed on Wednesday that his condition had worsened.
He died on Saturday morning at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican where he had lived since he resigned in 2013, citing deteriorating mental and physical health.
At a New Year’s Eve service on Saturday night, Francis paid tribute to his “beloved” predecessor, saying he was “so noble, so kind”.
Francis raised the prospect this year that he might follow Benedict’s example and step down if he could not carry out his duties.
Born on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Benedict was 78 when he became the first German pope of the modern era.
Flags at the town hall flew at half-mast on Saturday in the Marktl, where a special service was held at the church where he was baptized.
Local Carl Michael Nack, 55, said his death “was probably a release” while praising Benedict for resigning and defending his background.
Close to John Paul II and a senior cardinal in the Catholic hierarchy, Benedict was a leading candidate to become pope in 2005 — but later said his election was “like a cut-throat.”
Unlike his successor Francis, a Jesuit happy to be among his flock, Benedict was a conservative intellectual who was called “God’s Rottweiler” in his previous posting as chief enforcer.
He struggled to contain several scandals in the church during his papacy, including the global scourge of clerical sexual abuse and decades of cover-ups.
The abuse scandal overshadowed his final months after a damning report on the German church in January 2022 accused him of personally failing to stop four predatory priests in the 1980s while he was archbishop of Munich.
He has denied wrongdoing and the Vatican has strongly defended his record as the first pope to apologize for the scandals, to express his own “deep remorse” and meet with victims.
There have been other controversies, from comments that angered the Muslim world to a money-laundering scandal at the Vatican bank and a personal humiliation when, in 2012, his butler leaked secret documents to the media.
He will be remembered for his theology, but “he didn’t have the mental strength to become pope,” noted Italian Vatican watcher Marco Politis.
However, after he resigned, Benedict remained a standard-bearer for the conservative wing of the church.
With his death, those who fought Francis’ more liberal outlook “lose a living symbol,” Politis told AFP.