Thousands pay respects as Pope Benedict lies in state at the Vatican

Thousands pay respects as Pope Benedict lies in state at the Vatican

THOUSANDS of people have paid their respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as he lies in state at the Vatican ahead of his funeral on Thursday.

The 95-year-old former Cardinal Ratzinger passed away on Saturday, December 31, following several years of deteriorating health.

Appointed Pope in 2005 to succeed John Paul II, he was the first Pontiff in almost 600 years to resign when he stepped down in 2013, citing his advanced age.

Faithful begin to queue in St Peter's Square this morning (Image: by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Pope Benedict's remains were moved this morning from the Mater Ecclesiae monastery to St Peter's Basilica.

The faithful were permitted to enter the Basilica from 9am to pay their final respects and to offer prayers for the repose of his soul.

The Pope Emeritus' body will be displayed for three days in an open casket resting in front of the Altar of the Confession.

Faithful and clergy pay their respects in St Peter's Basilica (IMage: Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

He has been dressed in traditional red liturgical garments and a miter, with a Rosary in his interlaced fingers.

Visitors will be permitted to view the Pope Emeritus' remains throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, from 7am until 7pm.

His funeral will take place on Thursday, when Pope Francis will become the first Pontiff in modern history to preside as Pope at the funeral of his predecessor.

Queues form inside St Peter's Basilica (Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The Requiem Mass will get underway in St Peter's Square at 9.30am CET.

Following his funeral, Pope Benedict's remains will be taken to the Vatican Grottos.

He will be laid to rest in the tomb where St John Paul II had been buried before his beatification.

Faithful leave St Peter's Square after paying their respects to the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Image: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)