The Vatican announced on Saturday that the former pope Benedict XVI had passed away at the age of 95, nearly ten years after he made history by becoming the first pope to resign in six centuries. “Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement “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 German pope emeritus, whose birth name was Joseph Ratzinger, had been leading a peaceful life in a former convent on the grounds of the Vatican since his shocking resignation in February 2013. His health had been deteriorating for some time, but the Vatican revealed on Wednesday that it had worsened, while his successor Pope Francis called for Catholics worldwide to pray for him.
His death brings to an end 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 rulebook for former popes, Benedict’s funeral is expected to be at the Vatican, presided over by Francis.
However, 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 one million people, including heads of state.
Benedict had almost entirely withdrawn from public view, his health reported to be shaky and the few photographs that emerged of him exposing his frailty.
In 2013, he had cited his declining physical and mental health in his decision to become the first pope since 1415 to give up the job as head of the worldwide Catholic church.
Benedict was a brilliant theologian but, he was criticised for his lack of leadership during the scandal involving clerical sexual abuse of children, which rocked the Catholic Church worldwide. He declared that he would live “hidden from the world” after resigning, although he continued to speak out on important Church matters through books, interviews, and essays.