Former Pope Benedict XVI has died at the age of 95, the Vatican announced Saturday, nearly a decade after he became the first pontiff to resign in six centuries.
“It is with sadness that I inform you that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died today at 9:34 a.m. 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 led a quiet life in a former convent within the Vatican grounds since his shock decision to step down in February 2013.
His health had been in decline for a long time, but the Vatican revealed on Wednesday that his condition had worsened, while his successor Pope Francis asked Catholics around the world to pray for him.
READ ALSO: The Pope urges to pray for the “very ill” ex-pontiff Benedict.
His death puts an end to an unprecedented situation in which two “men in white” – Benedict and Francis – had coexisted within the walls of the small city-state.
Although there are no rules for former popes, Benedict’s funeral is expected to be at the Vatican, with Francis presiding.
In 2005, the body of John Paul II, the last pope to die, lay in state before a funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square attended by a million people, including heads of been
Scandal and internal struggle
Benedict had almost completely withdrawn from public view, his health reported to be unstable and the few photographs that emerged of him, exposing his frailty.
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 world Catholic church.
Benedict was a brilliant theologian, but his papacy was beset by Vatican infighting and a clerical child abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church worldwide, in which he was criticized by the lack of leadership.
Also read: Catholic church fights child abuse ‘as best we can’, Pope says
The abuse scandal overshadowed his final months after a report for the German church in January 2022 accused him of failing to personally arrest four predatory priests in the 1980s while he was archbishop of Munich.
He denied wrongdoing and the Vatican strongly defended his record as the first pope to apologize for scandals, express his own “deep remorse” and meet with victims.
Born on April 16, 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Benedict was 78 when he succeeded the long-serving and popular John Paul II in April 2005 as the first German pope of the modern era.
He later said his election had felt “like the guillotine”.
Unlike his successor, Pope Francis, a Jesuit who revels in being among his flock, Benedict was a conservative intellectual called “God’s Rottweiler” in an earlier publication as chief doctrinal officer.
His papacy was dogged by controversy, from comments that angered the Muslim world to a money-laundering scandal at the Vatican bank and personal humiliation when, in 2012, his butler leaked secret papers to the media.
Despite saying he would live “hidden from the world” after his resignation, he repeatedly weighed in on key issues facing the Church through books, interviews and articles.
In January 2020, he expressed his opposition to allowing priests to marry. A year earlier, he blamed clerical abuse scandals on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and a collapse of faith in the West.
In an interview in March 2021, he said that “there is only one pope” but acknowledged “fanatical” supporters who refused to accept his resignation.