Former Pope Benedict XVI died at age 95, Vatican says
Steph Deschamps / January 1, 2023
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, whose renunciation in 2013 took the world by surprise, died Saturday at age 95 in the monastery in the Vatican Gardens where he had retired.
"I have the pain to announce that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, died today at 09:34, at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican," announced in a statement the director of the Holy See press office, Matteo Bruni.
The funeral of the former Bavarian pontiff will be held Thursday morning in St. Peter's Square in Rome under the presidency of Pope Francis, an unprecedented event in the two thousand year history of the Catholic Church.
The health of the German theologian had deteriorated in recent days, but the Vatican had said Friday that his condition was "stationary" and that he had participated in the celebration of Mass in his room on Thursday.
The funeral of the 265th pope is expected to be celebrated by his successor Francis in Rome, an unprecedented event in the two thousand year history of the Catholic Church that could be attended by tens of thousands of people, including heads of state.
His death puts an end to the unusual cohabitation of two men in white: the German Joseph Ratzinger, a brilliant theologian not very comfortable with crowds, and the Argentine Jorge Bergoglio, a Jesuit with an incisive word who wanted to put the poor and migrants at the center of the Church's mission.
After eight years of pontificate marked by multiple crises, Benedict XVI was caught up in early 2022 by the drama of pedocriminality in the Church. Questioned by a report in Germany on his management of sexual violence when he was Archbishop of Munich, he came out of his silence to ask for "forgiveness" but assured that he had never covered up for a pedocriminal.
His renunciation, announced in Latin on February 11, 2013, was a personal decision linked to his declining strength and not to the pressure of scandals, he had assured in a book of confidences published in 2016.
With this gesture, unprecedented in six centuries, the first German pope in modern history opened the way for his successors whose strength would decline. Francis, 86 years old and suffering from knee pain, has himself left this possibility "open ».
On Wednesday, Pope Francis called for a "special prayer" for his "gravely ill" predecessor and went to his bedside at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican gardens.
The Holy See had then confirmed the "aggravation" of the health of the German theologian because of his "advanced age", specifying that he remained under permanent medical supervision. "It is his vital functions that are failing, including the heart," a Vatican source told AFP, adding that no hospitalization was planned, as the residence of Benedict XVI has the necessary medical equipment.
Friday afternoon, the Vatican organized a mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome to pray for the former pope. Benedict XVI had appeared increasingly frail in recent months, moving in a wheelchair, but he continued to receive visitors. Photos from his last visit, on December 1, showed a frail and visibly weakened man.
Born in 1927, Joseph Ratzinger taught theology for 25 years in Germany before being named Archbishop of Munich. He then became the Church's strict guardian of dogma for another quarter century in Rome as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and then pope for eight years (2005-2013), succeeding John Paul II.
As head of the Catholic Church, he has defended a conservative line, notably on abortion, homosexuality or euthanasia. His statements have sometimes shocked, as on Islam or the use of condoms against HIV. His pontificate was also marked in 2012 by the leak of confidential documents ("Vatileaks") orchestrated by his butler. The scandal exposed a Roman Curia (Vatican government) plagued by intrigue and lacking in financial rigor. The last video of Benedict XVI, released by the Vatican in August, showed a thin man with a hearing aid who could no longer speak but still had a lively gaze.