Former Pope Benedict, who in 2013 became the first pontiff in 600 years to resign, has died aged 95 in a secluded monastery in the Vatican where he had lived since stepping down, a spokesman for the Holy See has announced.
“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,” spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement on Saturday.
Earlier this week, Pope Francis disclosed during his weekly general audience that his predecessor was “very sick”, and asked for people to pray for him.
For nearly 25 years, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict was the powerful head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, then known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
He was elected pope on April 19, 2005 to succeed the widely popular Pope John Paul II, who reigned for 27 years. Cardinals chose him from among their number seeking continuity and what one called “a safe pair of hands”.
The first German pope in 1000 years, Benedict himself acknowledged that he was a weak administrator, saying he showed a “lack of resolve in governing and decision taking,” during his eight-year papacy which was marked by missteps and a leaks scandal.
Child abuse scandals hounded most of his papacy but he is credited with jump-starting the process to discipline or defrock predator priests after a more lax attitude under his predecessor.
Although the former pontiff had been ill for some time, Vatican authorities said there had been an aggravation in his condition because of advancing age.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis appealed to his final audience of the year at the Vatican to “pray a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict”, whom he said was very ill.
Born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany, Benedict was 78 when in 2005 he became one of the oldest popes ever elected.
For much of his papacy, the Catholic Church faced allegations, legal claims and official reports into decades of child abuse by priests.
Earlier this year the former Pope acknowledged that errors had been made in the handling of abuse cases while he was archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982.
The Mass Booklet for the Funeral of Pope Benedict XVI has been released by the Vatican Press Office. Download here