Former Pope, Benedict XVI, who became the first pontiff in almost 600 years to resign his position on February 11, 2013, died on Saturday at the age of 95 after a period of ill health, the Vatican said in a statement.
“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.
Bruni added that “further information will be provided as soon as possible.”
On Wednesday, Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for Benedict because he was very sick.
“I want to ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict who sustains the Church in his silence. He is very sick. We ask the Lord to console and sustain him in this witness of love for the Church to the very end,” Francis said at his general audience.
Benedict was very outspoken and continued to speak up even after his retirement in 2013 triggering tension within the Catholic Church.
Born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927, he was elected pope in April 2005 after the death of John Paul II.
The son of a policeman, he was ordained as a priest in 1951, made cardinal in 1977. He later served as chief theological adviser to Pope John Paul II.
In 1981, he took over as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, a key office in the Vatican that oversees the doctrine on faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.
He challenged traditional teachings on issues such as homosexuality and even called for women to be ordained priests.
In a statement, President Joseph R. Biden and First Lady Jill Biden mourned the death of Pope Benedict.
“Jill and I join Catholics around the world, and so many others, in mourning the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,” President Biden wrote.
He added, “I had the privilege of spending time with Pope Benedict at the Vatican in 2011 and will always remember his generosity and welcome as well as our meaningful conversation.
“He will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith. As he remarked during his 2008 visit to the White House, “the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity.” May his focus on the ministry of charity continue to be an inspiration to us all.”
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken described Pope Benedict as a holy man.
He wrote in a statement, “The United States mourns the passing of His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus – a holy man, witness to faith, and once Shepherd of the Catholic faithful.
“Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a dedicated leader and was committed to interfaith dialogue. He was an advocate for vulnerable persons, including refugees, internally displaced persons, and migrants. He supported international legal measures to defend them. He was a renowned theologian within the Catholic Church for decades.
“We offer our deepest condolences to the Catholic faithful around the world, the Holy See, and all those whose lives were enriched by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s spiritual guidance.”