FORMER Pope Benedict XVI has died at the age of 95.
The ex-head of the Catholic Church resigned as pontiff in February 2013 – the first pope to retire in 600 years.
A spokesman for the Holy See confirmed Benedict died on Saturday morning.
They said: “With sorrow I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, passed away today at 9.34am in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican.
“Further information will be provided as soon as possible.”
Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger 16 April 1927 – 31 December 2022), he served as the head of the Church and and the sovereign of the Vatican City State from 19 April 2005 until his resignation on 28 February 2013. Benedict, who succeeded Pope John Paul in 2005 chose to be known by the title ”Pope emeritus” upon his resignation.
Ordained as a priest in 1951 in his native Bavaria, Ratzinger embarked on an academic career and established himself as a highly regarded theologian by the late 1950s. He was appointed a full professor in 1958 at the age of 31.
After a long career as a professor of theology at several German universities, he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and was appointed a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977, an unusual promotion for someone with little pastoral experience. In 1981, he was appointed Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith , one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
From 2002 until his election as pope, he was also Dean of the College of Cardinals. Prior to becoming pope, he was “a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century”; he had an influence “second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions” as one of John Paul II’s closest confidantes. He lived in Rome from 1981 until his death in 2022.
On 11 February 2013, Benedict unexpectedly announced his resignation in a speech in Latin before the cardinals, citing a “lack of strength of mind and body” due to his advanced age. His resignation took effect on 28 February 2013. He was the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415, and the first to do so on his own initiative since Celestine V in 1294.
As pope emeritus, Benedict retained the style of His Holiness and dressed in the papal colour of white. He was succeeded by Francis on 13 March 2013, and he moved into the newly renovated Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican City for his retirement on 2 May 2013. The retired Benedict XVI later made occasional public appearances alongside Francis.
In addition to his native German language, Benedict had some level of proficiency in French, Italian, English, and Spanish. He also knew Portuguese, Latin, Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Greek.