Former Pope Benedict XVI, the first to step down in centuries, dies aged 95 | world news

Former Pope Benedict XVI, who became the first pontiff to step down in some 600 years, has died aged 95.

Pope Francis, who replaced him as head of the Catholic Church, had asked the faithful to pray for him following its general audience on Wednesday morning.

The Vatican said Benedict XVI’s body would be on display in St. Peter’s Basilica from Monday.

“With sadness, I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, died today at 9:34 a.m. at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican,” a spokesperson said.

“From Monday morning January 2, 2023, the body of the pope emeritus will be in St. Peter’s Basilica so that the faithful can bid farewell.”

Former pontiff dies at 95 after Pope Francis reveals he was ‘very ill’ – follow the latest updates

Pope Benedict XVI, photographed in 2011. Photo: AP

The health of the pope emeritus, as Benedict was called after his resignation, had suffered “worsening in recent hours” due to his age, the Vatican said, and doctors were constantly monitoring his condition.

Francis had gone to visit Benedict at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City after the audience.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said Benedict XVI was “one of the great theologians of the 20th century”.

He said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Pope Benedict XVI. He will be remembered as one of the great theologians of the 20th century.

“I remember with particular fondness the remarkable papal visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the insight of his mind and the openness of his welcome to all he met.”

“He was a gentleman through and through, a scholar through and through, a pastor through and through, a man of God through and through – close to the Lord and ever his humble servant.

“Pope Benedict is very present in my heart and in my prayers. I give thanks to God for his ministry and his leadership.”

Read more:
The ‘Rottweiler of God’s’ resignation shocked the world – and it continued to be controversial

Pope Benedict XVI greets Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany from a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican

An announcement that shocked the Catholic world

Benedict had lived in the Vatican, a separate nation-state within the boundaries of the Italian capital Rome, after ceasing to be pope in 2013.

He had become increasingly frail in recent years after devoting his life after the papacy to prayer and meditation.

For hundreds of years before Benedict became the Holy Father, popes had ruled the Catholic Church until their death.

On February 11, 2013, Benedict XVI’s surprise announcement to stand aside shocked the Catholic world and forced the Church to face an event it had not seen for centuries.

He said he wanted to quit because he no longer had the physical and mental strength to lead the church.

Newly elected Pope Benedict XVI blesses pilgrims from a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

“God’s Rottweiler”

Before being elected pope in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He held the powerful role for 24 years, earning the nickname “God’s Rottweiler” for his strictly conservative theological views.

Some ultra-traditionalists have even refused to recognize Pope Francis as a legitimate pontiff after the resignation of Benedict XVI, criticizing Francis for his more welcoming approach to members of the LGBTQ+ community and to Catholics who have divorced and remarried outside. of the Church, arguing that both undermined traditional values.


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