Former Pope Benedict XVI has died at his Vatican residence, aged 95, almost a decade after he stood down because of ailing health.
He led the Catholic Church for less than eight years until, in 2013, he became the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.
Benedict spent his final years at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery within the walls of the Vatican.
His successor Pope Francis said he had visited him there frequently.
The Vatican 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.
“Further information will be provided as soon as possible.”
The Vatican said the body of the Pope Emeritus will be placed in St Peter’s Basilica from 2 January for “the greeting of the faithful”.
Plans for Pope Benedict’s funeral will be announced in the next few hours, the Vatican said.
The rise of Pope Benedict in the Catholic Church
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, was born at Marktl am Inn, Diocese of Passau (Germany) on 16 April 1927 (Holy Saturday) and was baptised on the same day.
In 1953, he obtained his doctorate in theology with a thesis entitled “People and House of God in St Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church”.
After teaching dogmatic and fundamental theology at the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology in Freising, he went on to teach at Bonn, from 1959 to 1963; at Münster from 1963 to 1966; and at Tübingen from 1966 to 1969.
On 25 March 1977, Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Munich and Freising. On 28 May of the same year, he received episcopal ordination. He was the first diocesan priest in 80 years to take on the pastoral governance of the great Bavarian Archdiocese.
He chose as his episcopal motto: “Cooperators of the truth”.
In 1978, he took part in the Conclave of 25 and 26 August which elected John Paul I.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected on 19 April 2005 as the 265th Pope.
He was the oldest person to be elected Pope since 1730, and had been a Cardinal for a longer period of time than any Pope since 1724.
Pope Benedict was accused of failing to act on child abuse
A 2022 report by a German law firm found that Benedict failed to act after credible accusations of child abuse in the Church.
The former pope was alleged failed to take any action regarding four child abuse cases when he was archbishop of Munich, the German probe alleges.
At the time, Archbishop Josef Ratzinger was responsible for the huge archdiocese of Munich from 1977 to 1982. In the past, Benedict has denied the accusations.
“Two of these cases concern abuses committed during his tenure and sanctioned by the state,” attorney Martin Pusch stated to the press as he announced his firm’s report.
“In both cases, the perpetrators remained active in pastoral care,” Pusch noted.
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