Pope Benedict XVI Dies at 95

The Vatican press office has announced that Pope Benedict XVI died on Saturday inside the Vatican City at the age of 95.

According to the office, Pope Benedict XVI is already ailing due to his old age. His health was already faltering, eventually leading up to his death.

Earlier this week, Pope Francis publicly shared that Pope Benedict XVI was already struggling due to his health. The Vatican announced that Pope Francis would preside over the late pope’s funeral this Thursday at St Peter’s Square.

Born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria, Germany, on April 26, 1927, the late pope received extensive training as a theologian. When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, the congregation elected him to become the next pope, primarily due to his knowledge and 25 years in service as the top enforcer of orthodoxy inside the Vatican.

As a result, Pope Benedict XVI became the first German to hold the papacy since the 11th century. Pope Benedict XVI was remembered as the most conservative pontiff. His decision last 2013 shook the world and changed the face of the papacy in modern times.

“Here is a man who in prayer discerned his own limits and said, ‘I can go so far, I do not have the physical strength to go further, and therefore I resign,’ as he explains in that interview book. He had a sense of peace that he had made the right decision,” said Gerard O’Connell, a Vatican correspondent.

Meanwhile, after he resigned from his post, Pope Benedict XVI received criticisms from other people, saying that his resignation affected the course of the Vatican. Other critics also slammed other policies made by Benedict.

“They’re sympathetic with Benedict, but they saw that really he was not able to push through some big items on his agenda. They see Benedict as perhaps a frustrated pope, frustrated in his ambitions, frustrated in part by his own top officials, and I think that’s where we’re seeing some more open criticism than we ever saw before,” said one Vatican Diaries author John Thavis.

“Pope Benedict came into office knowing more about abuse than any other Catholic official on the planet, and I think many victims and many Catholics had some real hope that he would clean house, and he clearly didn’t,” added David Clohessy, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests executive director.

“With Pope Benedict XVI, we saw the reverse — we saw the pope obliged to defend his advisers who were attacked, and the outcome was that the pope was overexposed and eventually was forced to resign,” adds Massimo Franco, another author.

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The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

The late pontiff shocked the world because of his announcement. Benedict stepping down from his post marks the first time since the 15th century that a candidate deliberately relinquished the papacy.

“I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After repeatedly examining my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he wrote.

“I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on April 19 2005, in such a way, that as from February 28 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

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The pontiff’s legacy

Ratzinger was ordained in 1951. He taught theology afterward. Eleven years, the Second Vatican Council chose him as its theological adviser. Working as the adviser of a high office in the Vatican allowed Ratzinger to usher reforms within the 20th Century Catholic Church.

The pope at the time, Pope Paul VI, appointed him as the archbishop of Munich in 1977. After several years, Pope John Paul II made him the head of the congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, or the theological watchdog of the Vatican.

Holding significant power and influence in the Vatican’s hierarchy, Ratzinger enforced highly conservative doctrines. For instance, he strictly ruled out the possibility of female priests, same-sex marriages, and priests who chose to marry.

Meanwhile, he also cracked down on homosexuality and released a public document in 1986, calling it an “objective disorder and an intrinsic moral evil.”

When he became pope, Pope Benedict XVI campaigned against abortion, birth control, stem-cell research, and divorce.