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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, First To Resign In 600 Years, Dies at 95

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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 on Saturday, December 31, 2022: “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.”

Although the former pontiff had been ill for some time, the Holy See 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.

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The Papal Resignation that Shocked the World

The moment that transformed Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy — and perhaps his church — passed so quietly that it was initially missed.

The pontiff was closing what one reporter described as an “extremely banal,” routine ceremony with Vatican cardinals on Feb. 11, 2013, when he uttered, in Latin, that he had made “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.”

The white-haired, German-born theologian, then 85, said he had “repeatedly examined my conscience before God” and concluded that the modern world, “subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith,” required a pope in better physical and intellectual condition. “My strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited” to the papacy.

Many people at the meeting did not understand Latin. Confused looks were swapped until the meaning seeped in. To Angelo Sodano, dean of the cardinals, Pope Benedict’s words came like “a bolt of lightning in a clear blue sky.” A reporter in the room began to cry.

Pope Benedict, 95, died Saturday. His death was announced by the Vatican..

The first resignation of the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church in 600 years would crystallize the full weight of the crises then battering the world’s largest Christian denomination. An intellectual giant and rock of moral certitude who had spent a lifetime defending the faith from outside forces, Pope Benedict would ultimately see his tenure as pope undone in large part by a rot within.

Documents leaked by his former butler to the Italian media would pull back a curtain on the Roman Curia, the Holy See’s bureaucracy accused of corruption and conniving behind Vatican walls. The Vatican bank faced mounting criticism over its opaque operations, leading foreign financial institutions to temporarily suspend credit transactions in the world’s smallest state.

Yet one challenge, which first emerged under his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, towered above all the others: the ongoing revelations of rampant sexual abuse by Catholic priests and decades-long efforts by the church hierarchy to cover it up. With his resignation, Pope Benedict, a figure dubbed “God’s Rottweiler” for his fierce protection of church dogma, seemingly conceded his very human limitations, and his inability to manage a church in the face of existential crises.

His decision to leave his post would demystify an office shrouded in transcendental authority, upending the papal role that at times had seemed in danger of losing relevance.

Hattip: Washington Post

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