HE Cardinal Vincent Nichols among 200,000 mourners who travelled to Rome to pay homage to former Pope Benedict XVI

Almost 200,000 people paid homage to former Pope Benedict XVI during his lying in state over the last three days, according to The Vatican.

Pope Francis presided over the funeral this morning – the first time a sitting Pope has led his predecessor’s funeral in more than 220 years, the Vatican says.

The former Pope died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95, almost a decade after standing down because of ill-health.

Tens of thousands of people attended the funeral in St Peter’s Square, in front of St Peter’s Basilica, at 9:30 local time (8:30 GMT).

The event was marked by simplicity, in line with what Benedict had asked for.

During the three days of lying in state, mourners travelled from all over the world to pay their respects to the former Pope.

One Catholic pilgrimage organiser who travelled to Rome with his family to pay his respects described the experience of entering the basilica as “beautiful” and “humbling”.

Speaking to the BBC, Mountain Butorac described Benedict as a “very gentle” and “humble” man, who had been like a “papal grandfather” to him.

Another mourner, Father Callistus Kahale Kabindama, a priest from Zambia, told Reuters news agency Benedict had been “a great Pope, a marvellous Pope”.

Shortly after arriving in Rome on Wednesday, 4th January, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, spent some time in prayer and quiet contemplation before the body of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Also present at this time were other bishops and ordinaries from England and Wales and senior clergy with links to our countries.

Former Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who was nominated Nuncio to Great Britain by Benedict XVI in December 2010, came to pray. As did Monsignor Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Ordinariate was established by Benedict, as Pope, in November 2009 for Anglicans and their clergy who wanted to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Ukrainian Catholic Eparch, Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, also spent time in prayer before the Pope Emeritus. The Ukrainian Catholic Church in England and Wales was elevated to eparchial status – effectively a diocese – on Pope Benedict’s watch in January 2013.

Pic: © Mazur/cbcew.org.uk