- Emily McGurvey
- BBC News
Former Pope Benedict XVI died at his residence in the Vatican at the age of 95, nearly a decade after he stepped down from office due to illness.
He headed the Catholic Church for less than eight years until 2013, before becoming the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.
And Benedict spent his last years in the monastery of “Mater Ecclesia” inside the walls of the Vatican until he died at 9:34 am today, Saturday.
The funeral service, which will be held on January 5, will be presided over by the current Pope, Pope Francis.
The Vatican said that the body of the former pope will lie in the church of “St. Peter” starting from the second of January in order to “look at the last farewell to him by the faithful.”
The bells were rung in Munich Cathedral and a one-time bell was heard from St. Peter’s Square in Rome after the death of the former pope was announced.
Reactions began to follow on the news of the death of the former pope. The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nicholas, said that Pope Benedict was “one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century.”
“I remember with particular fondness the extraordinary papal visit to this country in 2010,” he said in a statement.
He added, “He was a gentleman, a scholar, a shepherd and a pious man in every sense of those words – close to God and always his obedient servant.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the former pope as “a great theologian whose visit to the UK in 2010 was an historic moment for Catholics and non-Catholics across the country”.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Pope Benedict “worked with his spirit and intelligence for a more fraternal world”. He said his ideas reached Catholics in France and around the world.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Pope Benedict was a “giant of faith and reason”.
She added, “He has dedicated his life to serving the global church and has spoken, and will continue to speak, to the hearts and minds of people with the spiritual, cultural, and intellectual depth of his teaching authority.”
As for German Chancellor Olaf Schultz, he said that Pope Benedict was, for many, and not only in Germany, “an influential figure in the Catholic Church, a controversial figure and an intelligent theologian.”
Irish President Michael D. Higgins said the former pope would be remembered for his “relentless efforts to find a common path to promote peace and goodness throughout the world.”
For his part, the Archbishop of Cantbury, Justin Welby, said that Pope Benedict was “one of the greatest theologians of his time, sincere in his faith in the Church and strong in its defense.”
In the wake of the spread of the news of the death of the former pope, people began to gather in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
Annamaria, 65, and Patricia, 64, who are visiting the Vatican from the northern Italian city of Bologna, said they went there immediately upon hearing the news of the death.
“We came here to pray,” Annamaria told the BBC. “He was a great pontiff, certainly different from Francis. He was a great thinker and scholar. We will always remember him, like the rest of the church.”
Barbara Bernandas, a tourist from Barcelona, Spain, said she and her boyfriend were stunned when they heard the news.
“We learned of his death when we were in St Peter’s Square,” she said. “A tour guide was just telling us where Benedict lives, it seems surreal. What’s going to happen now? This is unprecedented, there’s no protocol that follows about what’s going to happen now. It’s definitely a moment.” unprecedented history.
The former pope had been ill for a while, and the Vatican authorities said his condition had deteriorated due to his advanced age.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis appealed to the congregation in his last meeting this year to pray “a special prayer for the former Pope Benedict,” who said he was very ill.
Benedict, born in Germany as Joseph Ratzinger, was 78 years old in 2005 when he became one of the oldest popes to be elected.
For much of his tenure in office, the Catholic Church faced accusations, lawsuits and official reports about decades of child sexual abuse by priests.
And earlier this year, the former pope admitted to making mistakes in the way abuse cases were handled while he was archbishop in Munich from 1977 to 1982.