Pope Benedict XVI Dies at 95: Pope Francis Will Lead Funeral

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Pope Benedict XVI has died at the age of 95 at his residence in the Vatican. The news was announced in a short official statement on New Year’s Eve morning. His funeral will take place on Thursday, January 5, in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City at 9:30AM Italian time and led by Pope Francis.

“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,” wrote Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office. The Vatican added that Benedict’s body would lie at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome from January 2 for “the greeting of the faithful.”

It was Pope Francis who first revealed that Benedict was gravely ill just days ago during his December 28 audience when he told those gathered at the Vatican that his predecessor was “very sick” and asked them for “a special prayer.” The Vatican later confirmed that his condition had “worsened due to age” and he was receiving constant medical care, NBC reported.

Benedict made history in 2013 when he became the first pope in more than 600 years to resign, citing “advanced age” plus stress and health concerns amid the clerical sexual abuse scandal that had rocked the Catholic Church. He had also himself been accused of failing to act over allegations of priests committing child sexual abuse when he was Archbishop of Munich.

He had been pope for eight years following the April, 2005, death of Pope John Paul II.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, Benedict was born in 1927 in Marktl, Bavaria. He was ordained in 1951 and climbed the ranks of the Catholic Church to become Pope in 2005 at the age of 78.

He largely stayed out of the public eye after his retirement, but in February 2022 he said in a statement: “I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness. I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for all the abuses and the horrors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate.”

Benedict, who upheld the Catholic Church’s views on issues such as abortion and contraception, was portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the 2019 movie The Two Popes. The film was a fictional account of the relationship between Benedict and Pope Francis, who was played by Jonathan Pryce.

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