Benedict XVI, first pope to resign in 600 years, dies at 95

The Vatican said former Pope Benedict's remains would be on public display in St. Peter's Basilica starting on Monday for the faithful to pay their final respects.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Saturday, December 31, 2022, 10:02 PM IST
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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the shy German theologian who tried to reawaken Christianity in a secularised Europe but will forever be remembered as the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from the job, died on Saturday. He was 95.

Pope Francis will celebrate his funeral Mass in St. Peter's Square on Thursday, an unprecedented event in which a current Pope will celebrate the funeral for a former one.

Benedict stunned the world on February 11, 2013, when he announced, in his typical, soft-spoken Latin, that he no longer had the strength to run the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church that he had steered for eight years through scandal and indifference. His dramatic decision paved the way for the conclave that elected Francis as his successor.

The two popes then lived side-by-side in the Vatican gardens, an unprecedented arrangement that set the stage for future “popes emeritus” to do the same.

“With pain I inform that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died today at 9.34 in the Mater Ecclesia Monastery in the Vatican. Further information will be released as soon as possible,” said Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni on Saturday morning.

The Vatican said Benedict's remains would be on public display in St. Peter's Basilica starting on Monday for the faithful to pay their final respects.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had never wanted to be pope, but was forced to follow the footsteps of the beloved St. John Paul II and run the church through the fallout of the clerical sex abuse scandal and then a second scandal that erupted when his own butler stole his personal papers and gave them to a journalist.

Nevertheless, he set about the job with a single-minded vision to rekindle the faith in a world that, he frequently lamented, seemed to think it could do without God. With some decisive moves he tried to remind Europe of its Christian heritage and set the Catholic Church on a conservative, tradition-minded path that often alienated progressives.

Like his predecessor John Paul, Benedict made reaching out to Jews a hallmark of his papacy. His first official act as pope was a letter to Rome's Jewish community and he became the second pope in history, after John Paul, to enter a synagogue. In his 2011 book, "Jesus of Nazareth", Benedict made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Christ.

Benedict's legacy was irreversibly coloured by the global eruption in 2010 of the sex abuse scandal, even though as a cardinal he was responsible for turning the Vatican around on the issue.

In retirement, Benedict lived a life of prayer in retirement, emerging only occasionally from his converted monastery for special events and writing occasional book prefaces and messages.

Born April 16, 1927, in Marktl Am Inn, in Bavaria, Benedict was ordained, along with his brother, Georg, in 1951. After spending several years teaching theology in Germany, he was appointed bishop of Munich in 1977 and elevated to cardinal three months later by Pope Paul VI. His brother Georg was a frequent visitor to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo until he died in 2020. His sister died years previously. His "papal family" consisted of Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, his longtime private secretary who was always by his side, another secretary and consecrated women who tended to the papal apartment.

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