Former Pope Benedict XVI died at the age of 95 at his Vatican apartment, over a decade after stepping down due to ill health, BBC reported on Saturday quoting an official statement by the Vatican.

He led the Catholic Church for fewer than eight years before becoming the first Pope to retire since Gregory XII in 1415 in 2013. Benedict spent his final years in the Vatican at the Mater Ecclesiae convent.

Pope Francis, his successor, stated that he frequently visited him there.

“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 said in a statement.

“Further information will be provided as soon as possible.”

The body of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will be put in St Peter’s Basilica on January 2 for “the greeting of the faithful,” according to the Vatican.

The Vatican said plans for Pope Benedict’s funeral will be announced in the coming hours.

Although the former pontiff had been ailing for some time, the Holy See stated that his condition had worsened due to his age.

Pope Francis asked his final audience of the year at the Vatican on Wednesday to “pray a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict,” who he said was very unwell. 

Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany, was 78 when he became one of the oldest popes ever elected in 2005.

For much of his pontificate, the Catholic Church was confronted with allegations, legal claims, and official reports regarding decades of child abuse by priests.

Earlier this year, the former Pope admitted that mistakes were made in the treatment of abuse cases while he was archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.

The Early Life Of Former Pope Benedict XVI: 

Benedict XVI, born Joseph Alois Ratzinger on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, Germany, is the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church (2005–13). Prior to becoming Pope, Benedict was a prominent theologian and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In 2013, citing his older age, he became the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.

Ratzinger’s father was a police officer, while his mother worked as a hotel cook. Ratzinger, the youngest of three children, was six years old when the Nazis assumed power in Germany in 1933; his parents, both devout Catholics, were opposed to the regime.

From Ratzinger To Pope Benedict XVI: 

Ratzinger’s election as Pope on the second day of the conclave came as a surprise because he was a front-runner; front-runners are virtually never chosen, as the old saying goes, “He who comes as a pope leaves as a cardinal.”

His long service to John Paul and adherence to his predecessor’s beliefs and principles appear to have ensured his position among the cardinal electors. The homily he delivered as part of the pope’s burial rituals elevated him further. Despite saying he had hoped not to be picked, Ratzinger graciously accepted his election on April 19, 2005, becoming the oldest newly elected pope since Clement XII at the age of 78. (1730–40).

During his early papacy, Benedict travelled to various countries, including Turkey, where he met with the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople in the hopes of repairing relations between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

He established new guidelines that allowed for wider use of the Latin mass—the order of the mass used prior to the Second Vatican Council’s reforms—and he published the encyclicals Deus caritas est (2005; “God Is Love”) and Spe salvi (2007; “Saved by Hope”).

In 2007, Benedict supported the International Theological Commission’s finding that the traditional teaching of limbo was “unduly restrictive” and that unbaptized newborns could be saved.

He made his first trip to the Western Hemisphere, visiting Brazil and canonising Father Antonio Galvo (1739-1822), the country’s first native-born saint.

(With Inputs From Agencies)

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