Former Pope Benedict XVI dies age 95

Vatican City, Dec 31 (EFE).- Former Pope Benedict XVI has died at the age of 95 at his Vatican residence, where he had lived since his historic resignation from the pontificate in 2013, the Holy See said in a statement Saturday.

“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,” Holy See press officer Matteo Bruni said.

There had been mounting concern over the German’s health condition since Wednesday, when his successor, Pope Francis, acknowledged that Benedict XVI was “very ill” and asked for “a special prayer” from the faithful attending his general audience.

Shortly afterwards, Bruni confirmed that Benedict XVI’s situation had “worsened because of his advanced age”.

A day later, the Holy See said that Benedict XVI had rested well overnight and was “lucid and alert” and remained “stable” despite the seriousness of his condition.

On Friday, he was still “stable” enough to be able to attend a Mass held in his room.

His body will be brought to Saint Peter’s Basilica from Monday morning “so the faithful can bid farewell,” the Vatican said.

Pope Francis (R) greets Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (L) prior to leading the Holy Mass for the Elderly in Saint Peter’s square

Since his retirement in February 2013, Benedict XVI had lived in a monastery within the Vatican walls.

His resignation was the first time a pope had stepped down from the post in six centuries, since Gregory XII in 1415.

Since April 2013, Ratzinger had been living surrounded by his Vatican “family”, made up of his secretary, a doctor, a nurse and four consecrated laywomen, who shared the household chores and took care of the needs of the former pope.

Since stepping down nine years ago, Benedict XVI had largely withdrawn from public life, although on rare occasions he spoke out about certain issues that affected his time as pontiff.

For example, in February this year he asked forgiveness for the mistakes committed during his tenures in the various offices he held, after a report found he was aware of allegations of child sexual abuse in Germany during his time as archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.

“I can only express to all victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness. I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate,” he had said in a statement.

“The victims of sexual abuse have my deepest sympathy and I feel great sorrow for each individual case.”

He only rarely left the Vatican walls in his final years: once to visit his ailing brother, Georg, in the hospital and in June 2020 when he traveled to Germany to see him again a few weeks before he died at the age of 95. EFE

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