Former Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years rather than hold office for life, died Saturday, the Vatican announced in a statement. He was 95.
“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 Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Matteo Bruni said.
Benedict made the stunning announcement in 2013 that he planned to step down as pope, citing his “advanced age,” saying he no longer had the strength to lead the church. He spent his final years in a converted monastery at the Vatican, residing in the same place as his successor Francis, an unprecedented situation which became the inspiration for the 2019 Netflix film The Two Popes. Anthony Hopkins portrayed Benedict in the Oscar-nominated film.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was appointed pope at age 78, a position he never intended to hold, instead hoping to live his remaining years quietly in his native Bavaria. Throughout his eight years as head of the church, he dealt with the fallout of the clerical sex abuse scandal, as well as an additional scandal after his butler stole his personal papers and gave them to a journalist. He once said being elected pope had felt like a “guillotine” had fallen on him.
His successor Pope Francis will lead Benedict’s funeral, which will be held Thursday in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. It was just days ago that Francis asked for prayers for Benedict, saying he was “very sick.”