Pope Benedict dead at 95

Pope Benedict has died credit:Bang Showbiz
Pope Benedict has died credit:Bang Showbiz

Pope Benedict VXI has died.

The former head of the Catholic Church - who became the first pontiff to resign in 600 years when he stepped down in February 2013 after almost eight years in his position - passed away on Saturday (31.12.22) morning at the age of 95.

A Vatican spokesperson 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."

The body of the former pope - who was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger - will lie in state in St Peter' Basilica from Monday (02.01.23) before his funeral mass takes place in St Peter's Square on Thursday (05.01.23).

The representative added: "As of Monday morning, 2 January 2023, the body of the Pope Emeritus will be in Saint Peter's Basilica so the faithful can bid farewell."

Pope Francis will preside over the funeral service, an unprecedented event to have the current pontiff celebrate the life of his predecessor.

The news comes after the current pope asked for prayers for Benedict during his general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday (28.12.22).

At the end of his address, Pope Francis said: "I would like to ask all of you to pray a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict ... To remember him, because he is very ill, asking the Lord to console and support him."

The former pope's health had undergone a "worsening in the last hours" due to his age and doctors had been constantly monitoring his condition.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, hailed the late pope as "one of the great theologians of the 20th century".

He said: "I remember with particular affection the remarkable papal visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.

"He was through and through a gentleman, through and through a scholar, through and through a pastor, through and through a man of God - close to the Lord and always his humble servant."

And the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, remembered Benedict as "one of the greatest theologians of his age".

He said: "Today I join with the church throughout the world, and especially with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and all in the Catholic Church, in mourning the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

"In Pope Benedict's long life and ministry of service to Christ in His Church he saw many profound changes in the church and in the world.

"Pope Benedict was one of the greatest theologians of his age - committed to the faith of the Church and stalwart in its defence.

"In all things, not least in his writing and his preaching, he looked to Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God. It was abundantly clear that Christ was the root of his thought and the basis of his prayer.

"May he now rest in Christ's peace, and rise in glory with all the Saints."