FORMER Pope Benedict XVI, who is of German origin and in 2013 became the first pontiff in 600 years to step down, died on Saturday, December 31, aged 95.
The former pontiff died in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican where he had lived since his resignation, a spokesman for the Holy See said.
“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,” the spokesman said in a written statement.
As normal with the death of a Pope, the Vatican normally announces commencement of a conclave (a meeting of Cardinals – high-ranking Church officials who gather in Rome to elect a successor).
However, there would not be a conclave in place, since the late Pope resigned in 2013 citing concerns of frail health. Pope Francis was elected afterwards and is currently thr reigning Pope.
Pope Francis had earlier in the week disclosed during his weekly general audience that his predecessor was “very sick”, and asked for people to pray for him.
Most Catholic leaders comprising of Cardinals, Archbishops and Leaders of various Dioceses have called for prayers following Pope Francis’ call for prayers for the now deceased Pope Emeritus.
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For nearly 25 years, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict was the powerful head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, then known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
Conservatives in the Church have looked to the former Pope as their standard bearer and some ultra-traditionalists even refused to acknowledge Francis as a legitimate pontiff.
They have criticised Francis for his more welcoming approach to members of the LGBTQ+ community and to Catholics who divorced and remarried outside the Church, saying both were undermining traditional values.