Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the shy German theologian who sought to revive Christianity in a secularized Europe but will forever be remembered as the first pope to resign in 600 years, died Saturday. He turned 95.
Pope Francis will celebrate his funeral mass in St. Peter’s Square on Thursday, an unprecedented event in which a current pope will commemorate the burial of a former pope.
Benedict stunned the world on February 11, 2013, when he announced in his signature, soft Latin that he no longer had the strength to lead the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church he had ruled for eight years through scandal and indifference. had led.
His dramatic decision paved the way for the conclave that elected Francis as his successor. The two popes then lived side-by-side in the Vatican Gardens, an unprecedented arrangement that paved the way for future “popes emeritus” to do the same.
A statement from Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Saturday morning: “It is with sadness that I inform you that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away today at 9:34 am. [08:34 GMT] in the Mater Ecclesia Monastery in the Vatican. Further information will be released as soon as possible.”
The Vatican said Benedict’s remains will be on display in St. Peter’s Basilica from Monday for the faithful to pay their final respects. Benedict’s request was that his funeral be celebrated solemnly but with “simplicity,” Bruni told reporters.
He added that Benedict, whose health had recently deteriorated, had received the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick on Wednesday after his daily Mass in the presence of his old secretary and the devoted women who care for his household.
Former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had never wanted to be pope and, at age 78, planned to spend his final years writing in the “peace and quiet” of his native Bavaria.
Instead, he was forced to follow in the footsteps of the beloved St. John Paul II and lead the church through the fallout of the church sexual abuse scandal and then a second scandal that erupted when his own butler lost his personal papers. stole them and gave them to a journalist. .
When he was elected pope, he once said, it felt like a “guillotine” had fallen on him.
Nevertheless, he set to work with a determined vision to revive faith in a world that, he often lamented, seemed to be able to do without God.
“In vast parts of the world today there is a strange oblivion of God,” he told a million young people gathered in a vast field for his first foreign trip as pope, to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in 2005. “It seems like everything would be the same without him.”
With some decisive, often controversial steps, he tried to remind Europe of its Christian heritage. And he set the Catholic Church on a conservative, tradition-oriented path that often alienated progressives.