Dec 31, 2022

By Angus Gillespie

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It was the early hours of Saturday morning when the Vatican broke the news that Pope Emeritus Benedict the 16th had died at the age of 95.

Benedict was the first pope in 600 years to resign.

He had become increasingly frail during his almost 10 years of retirement.

Benedict’s decision to step down in 2013 as head of the Catholic Church paved the way for the conclave that elected Pope Francis.

The two popes then lived side-by-side in the Vatican gardens in an unprecedented arrangement that set the stage for future “popes emeritus” to do the same.

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 January 5th.

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

Born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany, Benedict was 78 when in 2005 he became one of the oldest popes ever elected.

For much of his papacy, the Catholic Church faced allegations, legal claims and official reports into decades of child abuse by priests.

Earlier this year the former pope acknowledged that errors had been made in the handling of abuse cases while he was archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982. Benedict later asked for forgiveness for his handling of the cases, but admitted no wrongdoing.

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