Former Pope Benedict XVI has died, aged 95, almost a decade after he stood down because of ailing health.

He led the Catholic Church for fewer than eight years until, in 2013, he became the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.

Benedict spent his final years at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery within the walls of the Vatican where he passed away at 09:34 (08:34 GMT) on Saturday.

His successor Pope Francis will lead the funeral on 5 January.

The Vatican said the body of Pope Emeritus will be placed in St Peter’s Basilica from 2 January for “the greeting of the faithful”.

Bells rang out from Munich cathedral and a single bell was heard ringing from St Peter’s Square in Rome after the death was announced.

In his first public comments since news of Pope Benedict’s death broke, Pope Francis called him a gift to the church, describing him as a noble and kind man.

At a New Year’s Eve service at the Vatican, he paid tribute to his “dearest” predecessor, emphasizing “his sacrifices offered for the good of the church”.

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said Pope Benedict was “one of the great theologians of the 20th century”.

In a statement, he said: “I remember with particular affection the remarkable Papal Visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind, and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the former pope “a great theologian whose UK visit in 2010 was an historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country”.

King Charles III said he received the news of Pope Benedict’s death “with deep sadness” and recalled “with fondness” meeting the him during a visit to the Vatican in 2009.

“I also recall his constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill to all people, and to strengthen the relationship between the global Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.”

Joe Biden – only the second Catholic to serve as US president – said Pope Benedict “will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith”. Mr Biden singled out the pope’s remarks during a 2008 visit to the White House in which the former pontiff said “the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity”.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Pope Benedict “worked with soul and intelligence for a more fraternal world” and said his thoughts went out to Catholics in France and around the world.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Pope Benedict “was a giant of faith and reason”.

“He put his life at the service of the universal Church and spoke, and will continue to speak, to the hearts and minds of men with the spiritual, cultural and intellectual depth of his Magisterium.”

The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said for many, not only in Germany, Pope Benedict was “a formative figure of the Catholic Church, a forthright personality and a clever theologian”.

Irish President Michael D Higgins said the former pope would be remembered for “his untiring efforts to find a common path in promoting peace and goodwill throughout the world”.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said Pope Benedict was “one of the greatest theologians of his age – committed to the faith of the Church and stalwart in its defence”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Pope Benedict as a “defender of traditional Christian values,” in his New Year address to the nation.

Source:bbc.com

 

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