The Vatican has announced the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a German theologian who surprised the world by renouncing his pontificate in 2013, this Saturday (31.12.2022), at the age of 95. “It is with regret that I announce that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away today at 9:34 am, in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery of the Vatican,” Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See’s press service, said in a statement.
“The body of the Pope emeritus will be in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican for the farewell to the faithful”, reads another release from the Holy See press office. Shortly before 11:00 the bells of the basilica rang for the death of the pope emeritus, while hundreds of people flocked to the square to remember the figure of Joseph Ratzinger, the refined ultra-conservative theologian who chose the name of Benedict XVI. after being named head of the Catholic Church in 2005.
“A candle that goes out slowly and serenely”
His health had deteriorated in recent days. During the general audience on Wednesday, Francis asked for prayers for the health of his predecessor, whom he was “very ill” and who went to visit him in his room. However, on Friday the Vatican indicated that he was in “stable” condition and that on Thursday he had attended mass celebrated in his room in the Vatican convent. The personal secretary of the pontiff emeritus, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, had repeatedly stated in recent years that he was like “a candle that goes out slowly and serenely”.
The funeral of the 265th pope in history is expected to be celebrated by his successor, Francis, an unprecedented event in the Church’s 2,000-year history. Tens of thousands of people are expected, including heads of state and leaders of other religions.
“Soon I will face the supreme judge of my life”
Ratzinger, the first German pope of the modern era, replaced in 2005 the charismatic John Paul II, who had been his right-hand man for a quarter of a century at the helm of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Holy Office of the ‘Inquisition… His eight-year pontificate was marked by scandals within the Church. After his resignation, Benedict XVI has promised to maintain an absolute retirement, without overshadowing his successor, Pope Francis.
And in early 2022 he was hit with the accusation of having covered up four cases of pedophilia when he was archbishop of Munich, between 1977 and 1981. Faced with pressure from the German report which accused him of negligence in handling those cases of paedophilia, broke his silence to ask for “forgiveness” and express his “profound” shame.
“Soon I will face the chief judge of my life. While looking back on my long life I may have much to fear and fear, I am in a joyful mood because I am firmly confident that the Lord is not only the righteous judge, but also the friend and brother who has already suffered my shortcomings and is, therefore, as a judge, at the same time my lawyer”, he said at the time.