Thousands line up to pay their respects to Pope Benedict XVI

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By Mark Armstrong  with AFP
People queuing in St Peter's Square to pay their last respects to Pope Benedict XVI
People queuing in St Peter's Square to pay their last respects to Pope Benedict XVI   -   Copyright  AFP

Thousands of people were paying their last respects on Monday to the late Pope Benedict XVI, whose remains are lying in state at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

The 95-year-old died on New Year's Eve.

Mourners started queuing hours before his body was transferred from the nearby monastery where he passed away.

Benedict was a controversial leader for some but was revered as a stalwart of traditional Catholic values by others.

"He was both a great and humble person," said Catholic nun Viviana Escalante, "everybody could understand him."

Nancy Nohrden, General Director, Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, said Benedict was a Pope who was "not afraid to face the questions of today. He was very open, in that regard."

And Father Ante Vrhovac, a priest from Bosnia, add that Benedict was "an innovator mainly because he was the keeper of what the faith of the church has been for two thousand years.”

Benedict led the Catholic Church for eight years before stepping down due to ill health in 2013.

His body will lie in state for three days and then his funeral mass on Thursday will be led by his successor, Pope Francis.

Security officials expected at least 25,000 people to pass by the body on the first day of viewing.