Former Pope Benedict XVI. died at the age of 95, the Vatican said on Saturday, almost a decade after becoming the first pope to resign in six centuries.
“It is with sadness that I inform you that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. died at 9.34am today at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
The German pope emeritus, whose birth name was Joseph Ratzinger, had lived a quiet life in a former convent on Vatican grounds since his shock decision to step down in February 2013.
His health had long been deteriorating, but the Vatican announced on Wednesday that his situation had deteriorated, while his successor, Pope Francis, called on Catholics worldwide to pray for him.
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His death ends an unprecedented situation in which two “men in white” – Benedict and Francis – had co-existed within the walls of the tiny city-state.
While there is no rule book for former popes, Benedict’s funeral is expected to take place at the Vatican, with Francis presiding.
In 2005, the body of John Paul II, the last deceased pope, was laid out in St. Peter’s Square before a funeral mass attended by a million people, including heads of state.
scandal and power struggles
Benedikt had almost completely withdrawn from the public eye, his health was poor and the few photos that surfaced of him showed his frailty.
Back in 2013, he cited his declining physical and mental health in his decision to become the first pope since 1415 to step down as head of the global Catholic Church.
Benedict was a brilliant theologian, but his papacy was plagued by internal strife in the Vatican and a clerical child sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church around the world and in which he was criticized for lack of leadership.
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The abuse scandal overshadowed his final months after a scathing report for the German church in January 2022 accused him of personally failing to stop four predatory priests when he was Archbishop of Munich in the 1980s.
He denied wrongdoing and the Vatican firmly defended its record by being the first pope to apologize for the scandals, expressing his own “deep remorse” and meeting victims.
Born on April 16, 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, in April 2005, at the age of 78, Benedict succeeded the long-standing and popular John Paul II, the first modern German pope.
He later said his election felt “like the guillotine”.
Unlike his successor, Pope Francis, a Jesuit who enjoys being among his flock, Benedict was a conservative intellectual who was described as “God’s Rottweiler” in a previous post as chief executor of doctrine.
His papacy has been marred by controversy, from comments that angered the Muslim world to a money-laundering scandal at the Vatican Bank to personal humiliation when his butler leaked secret papers to the media in 2012.
Although he said he would live “hidden from the world” after his resignation, he has repeatedly intervened in books, interviews and articles on key issues facing the church.
In January 2020, he spoke out against allowing priests to marry. A year earlier he blamed the sexual revolution of the 1960s and a betrayal of faith in the West for clergyman abuse scandals.
In a March 2021 interview, he said “there is only one pope,” but acknowledged “fanatical” supporters who refused to accept his resignation.