Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 95 in a monastery in the Vatican, has received tributes from dignitaries and religious leaders.
In a statement from the Vatican, Benedict, who was the first pope in almost 600 years to resign from office rather than keep it for life, passed away on Saturday.
The Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Matteo Bruni, announced, “With sadness I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, died away today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican.”
According to Bruni, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s funeral will take place on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. local time in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. Pope Francis will preside over the funeral.
According to a Saturday report from Vatican News, the former pope’s body will lay in state in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican starting on Monday for the faithful to say their final farewells. His funeral will be “modest,” as requested by the Pope Emeritus, Bruni stated.
In his first public remarks following the passing of previous Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis referred to him as a “great person” and praised his “sacrifices for the sake of the church.”
We are moved as we remember him as such a noble and kind person, and we are thankful to God for gifting him to the church and the world, he said on Saturday.
Francis led the customary vespers service before New Year’s Day while paying respect to Benedict in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
“Gratitude to him for all the good he did, especially in these last years of his life, and most of all for his witness of faith and prayer. Francis emphasised that only God is aware of the importance of his sacrifices made for the sake of the church.
Days after Pope Francis urged the faithful to pray for him, stating that he was “extremely unwell,” word of Benedict’s passing broke.
His health had been deteriorating for a while.
On February 11, 2013, Benedict shocked the Catholic faithful and academics of religion all around the world by announcing his intention to resign as Pope, citing his “old age.”
In his farewell address, the outgoing pope promised to stay “hidden” from the world, but he continued to speak out on religious matters in the years following his retirement, contributing to tensions within the Catholic Church.
an influential and divisive voice
For many years, Benedict was a significant figure in the Catholic Church. Born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927, he was the son of a policeman. He was ordained as a priest in 1951, made a cardinal in 1977, and later served as chief theological adviser to Pope John Paul II.
One of his most significant steps up came in 1981 when he took over as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the Vatican office that oversees “the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world,” according to the Vatican.
Ratzinger became known as “Cardinal No” stemming from his efforts to crack down on the liberation theology movement, religious pluralism, challenges to traditional teachings on issues such as homosexuality, and calls to ordain women as priests.
He was elected pope in April 2005, following John Paul II’s death.
He was known to be more conservative than his successor, Pope Francis, who has made moves to soften the Vatican’s position on abortion and homosexuality, as well as doing more to deal with the sexual abuse crisis that has engulfed the church in recent years and clouded Benedict’s legacy.
In April 2019, Benedict discussed the sex abuse crisis in a public letter, claiming that it was caused in part by the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the liberalization of the church’s moral teachings.
In January 2020, Benedict was forced to distance himself from a book widely seen as undercutting Francis as he considered whether or not to allow married men to become priests in certain cases. The book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” argued in favor of the centuries-old tradition of priestly celibacy within the Catholic Church. Benedict was originally listed as co-author, but later clarified that he had only contributed one section of the text.
A year later, Benedict came under fire over his time as archbishop of Munich and Freising, between 1977 and 1982, following the publication of a Church-commissioned report into abuse by Catholic clergy there.
The report found that while in the post he had been informed of four cases of sexual abuse involving minors – including two that had occurred during his time in office – but failed to act. It also revealed Benedict had attended a meeting about an abuser identified as Priest X. Following the report’s publication, Benedict pushed back against accusations that he knew in 1980 that this priest was an abuser.
In a letter released by the Vatican amid the furor, Benedict wrote that he was “of good cheer” as he faced “the final judge of my life,” despite his shortcomings. He also issued a general apology to survivors of abuse.