VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Benedict XVI breathed his last echoing the words of St. Peter to Jesus in the gospel of John: "Jesus, I love you," the pope emeritus' nurse in attendance has revealed.
According to Abp. Georg Gänswein (the former pope's secretary), the nurse reported that Benedict's last words were uttered "with just a whisper of a voice, but in a clearly distinguishable manner."
"I was not there at that moment, but the nurse told me about it shortly afterwards. These were his last comprehensible words, because afterwards he was no longer able to express himself," Gänswein told Vatican News.
La Nacion, who broke the story of Benedict's last words, said that the pope emeritus spoke his final words in German: "Jesus, ich liebe dich." However, Gänswein maintained that the nurse, who speaks only Italian, heard Benedict speaking the words in Italian.
Pope Francis arrived at his predecessor's deathbed 10 minutes after Gänswein telephoned him. Francis was accompanied by Benedict's two doctors, four consecrated women of the Memores Domini group, Birgit Wansin (Benedict's long-term scribe) and two nurses.
After Benedict's body was transferred from the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery (where he died), over 65,000 clerics and laymen paid homage to the deceased pope as his body was placed in a coffin and flanked by two Swiss Guards in St. Peter's Basilica, the Holy See Press Office said.
The body was received in St. Peter's Basilica at 7:15 a.m. by the basilica's archpriest, Cdl. Mauro Gambetti, who presided over a service that lasted 25 minutes, the Vatican added.
When the basilica opened at 9 a.m. on Monday, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President Sergio Mattarella were among the first to pay their respects to the deceased pope.
Significantly, there were no papal regalia adorning the body of Benedict. Instead, he was clad in red liturgical vestments and the miter (without the pallium or pastoral cross) with a rosary in his hands and black shoes in place of his sandals.
A ring with the effigy of St. Benedict, gifted by Bp. Gino Reali (the emeritus bishop of the diocese of Porto-Santa Rufina in Lazio), remained on the pope emeritus' finger. His head rested on two pillows, while a crimson cushion supported his back.
Following heated discussions in the offices of the Secretariat of State, earlier proposals to confer papal honors or a state funeral were rejected, Vatican sources told Church Militant.
Several Vatican experts and observers in St. Peter's Basilica told this apostolate that they were scandalized by the fact that the pope was even denied a Vatican state funeral or the dignity of being vested in papal regalia.
"If a predominantly Hindu country like India could give a state funeral to Mother Theresa, an Albanian nun, and grant her full military honors reserved only for the highest dignitaries of state, why couldn't the Vatican give Benedict at least a state funeral?" a senior Indian priest based in Rome asked.
The Vatican, however, insisted that the low-key funeral was the desire of the pope emeritus. Authorities expect a crowd of about 60,000 for the funeral.
The Holy See Press Office director, Matteo Bruni, said that Benedict will be buried according to his own wishes: in the same grave in the crypts under St. Peter's Basilica where Pope John Paul II was initially interred in 2005.
The tomb has remained vacant since the canonization of Karol Józef Wojtyła, whose remains have been transferred to a chapel near Michelangelo's Pietà.
Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his wife flew to Rome to pay their respects to Benedict in St. Peter's Basilica on Tuesday morning. Orbán, a conservative politician, has clashed with Pope Francis on issues of illegal immigration and globalization.
Orbán, a devout evangelical married to a Catholic, was seen kneeling before Benedict's catafalque in the section reserved for VIPs. Hungary's President Katalin Novák, a fervent Catholic and defender of the family, will attend the funeral on Thursday.
The only heads of state that have been officially invited to the funeral Mass, which is to be held at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, are from Italy and Germany. Other political leaders are free to come on their own initiative, the Vatican said.
Other dignitaries expected to attend include Polish President Andrzej Duda, Spanish Queen Sofia and Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
Pope Benedict made history after he resigned in 2013. He was the first pope to resign after Celestine V (born Pietro Da Morrone), who was living the life of a pious hermit when he was elevated to the papacy in 1294.
Celestine was made pope in his 80s, breaking a two-year deadlock in the college of cardinals. Overwhelmed by the office, he soon resigned in the expectation that he could return to his monastic existence.
Instead, he was imprisoned by his successor, Boniface VIII, who feared that a rival faction might make Celestine an antipope. Celestine died after about a year in captivity while his successor waged a bitter quarrel with King Philip IV of France.
Pope Boniface VIII was accused of heresy and sodomy, and then he was beaten and imprisoned weeks before his death. Italian poet Dante Alighieri placed Boniface in the "eighth circle of Hell" in his Divine Comedy, among the simoniacs.