At least 60,000 people were expected for the funeral of pope emeritus Benedict XVI on Jan. 5, and around 30,000 were expected to visit St. Peter’s Basilica on each of the three days that the pope emeritus’s body would lie in wake there, according to a security official for the city of Rome.
By contrast, hundreds of thousands participated in the funeral in 2005 of Pope John Paul, whose papacy lasted 27 years to Benedict’s eight. An estimated two million people filed past John Paul’s bier in St. Peter’s basilica, amid a one-week surge of pilgrims that Italian officials estimated at three million or more.
The airspace over St. Peter’s will be closed during Thursday’s ceremony and at least 1,000 police officers will be deployed, the security official, Bruno Frattasi said. Volunteers with the national civil protection agency will also provide assistance to those participating in the funeral and ambulances will be on hand, he added.
Rome’s public transportation system will also be adjusting to handle more passengers.
The decisions were made Saturday at a meeting of a security and order committee for the province of Rome. Other logistics — including how to move people wishing to pay their last respects through the basilica — were also discussed.
The committee is expected to meet again ahead of the funeral to fine tune details.
Matteo Bruni, a Vatican spokesman, said Saturday that in keeping with Benedict’s wishes, the funeral would be “marked by simplicity.”
The Vatican said that delegations of officials from Germany and of Italy would be present.