Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s last words were uttered toward heaven.
“Lord, I love you,” the former pontiff was heard saying in Italian around 3 a.m. Saturday, a few hours before drawing his last breath.
His longtime secretary Archbishop Georg Gaenswein described Benedict’s voice as “faint” but “very distinct.”
“I wasn’t there in that moment, but the nurse a little later recounted it,” the secretary said at the Vatican on Sunday. “They were his last comprehensible words, because afterwards, he wasn’t able to express himself anymore.”
Benedict died at 9:34 a.m. on Saturday at age 95 at his home in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, where he had lived since retiring in 2013. He had been ailing for several days but recently participated in Mass.
Pope Francis paid respects immediately after Gaenswein informed him of Benedict’s death, staying at the monastery for some time before returning to his own residence.
Francis prayed for Benedict’s passage to heaven during his New Year’s Day remarks on Sunday.
“Today we entrust to our Blessed Mother our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, so that she may accompany him in his passage from this world to God,” Francis said.
Benedict’s body was on display Sunday in the monastery chapel. He was dressed in a bishop’s traditional headgear with a rosary in his hand. A Christmas tree and the chapel’s altar were also in photos released by the Vatican.
The basilica will host his coffin for three days of viewing starting Monday, where 25,000 to 30,000 mourners were expected to pay their respects, officials said.
In his last official letter, a spiritual testament written in 2006 and released Saturday by the Vatican, Benedict expressed gratitude for his upbringing, his family, his friends, teachers and students. He also urged his compatriots in the Church to “stand firm in the faith!” and said, “Do not be confused!”
Benedict’s mishandling of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals came to light in January 2022 after an investigation commissioned by the Church.
“I ask for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart from all those whom I have wronged in some way,” he wrote. “Finally, I humbly ask: pray for me, so that the Lord may admit me to the eternal dwellings, despite all my sins and shortcomings. For all those entrusted to me, my heartfelt prayer goes out day after day.”
With News Wire Services