The former leader of the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI, has died peacefully at the age of 95.
“With sorrow, I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, passed away today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican,” the Vatican announced Saturday.
His death came almost ten years after his resignation as head of the Catholic Church due to ill health.
Earlier this week, Pope Francis called for prayers for Benedict XVI, who has the title of Pope Emeritus, as his health was deteriorating.
“Let us pray together for Pope Emeritus Benedict who is supporting the Church in silence. Let us ask the Lord to console him and to sustain him in this witness of love for the Church, until the end,” Pope Francis stated.
On Monday, January 2, 2023, the body of the former Pontiff will be at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Unlike other Popes, Benedict XVI’s funeral will be presided over by his predecessor Pope Francis on January 5 at St. Peter’s Square.
From Joseph Alois Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was born in 1927 as Joseph Alois Ratzinger. He became a priest in 1951 at the age of 24. In 1977, Pope Paul VI commissioned him as the archbishop of Munich and Freising. That same year, he was appointed a cardinal.
In 1981, Joseph Alois Ratzinger was summoned by Pope John Paul II to Rome. He was appointed the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position he held for 25 years. The department was responsible for defending the orthodoxy of the Catholic. It is one of the highest positions in the Vatican and the Catholic church.
Cardinal Ratzinger was elected the head of the Catholic Church after the death of John Paul in 2005. He became known as Benedict XVI after he took a name after Benedict of Norcia, a fifth-century monk. During his time as head of the Catholic Church, he was known for strictly observing Catholic doctrines and was more conservative than his predecessor, John Paul.
A resignation that shocked the Catholic Church
In all of Benedict XVI’s activities during his time as Pope, he is mostly remembered for what happened on February 28, 2013. He announced his resignation as Pontiff, making him the first Pope to step aside in 600 years. In his resignation speech, the German said his decision was because of his ill health.
“Having before God examined my conscience over and over, I have come to the certain knowledge that my strength, due to the burdens of age, is no longer suitable for properly administering the Petrine office,” Pope Benedict said in 2013.
His decision to step aside was unusual, as Popes in the Catholic Church are expected to serve for life. However, some argued that Benedict XVI’s reason for his resignation was not because of his ill health and that the reason was not given in his speech.
He later admitted in his book that he was not good at decision-making and governance, a statement that most observers agreed with but insisted that he was not a failure for stepping aside.
“One of my weak points is perhaps a lack of resolve in governing and in decision-making.” The former Pontiff said. “Practical government is not my strong point and that is certainly a weakness. But I cannot see myself as a failure.”
Following his resignation, he was succeeded by Pope Francis. From then on, he held the title of Pope Emeritus until his death on Saturday.
Although the former Pontiff was accused of financial mismanagement and criticised for his handling of child abuse cases, relationship with Muslims, and his dealings with holocaust denials, he is mostly remembered as a great theologian and the man who opened the door for other popes to resign when they are no longer up to the task.
World leaders pay tributes
World leaders have been paying tributes to the former Pontiff.
“My thoughts go out to Catholics in France and around the world, bereaved by the departure of His Holiness Benedict XVI, who worked with soul and intelligence for a more fraternal world,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote.
UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak said he was saddened by the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He described the former head of the Catholic Church as a great theologian.
“My thoughts are with Catholic people in the UK and around the world today,” Sunak wrote.
German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, described the former pope as a special church leader.
“The world loses a formative figure of the Catholic Church, a controversial personality and a clever theologian. My thoughts are with Pope Francis,” Mr Scholz stated.
Apart from world leaders, social media is filled with tributes to the 95-year-old.