Benedict XVI, first pope to resign in 600 years, dies at 95

vatican city – Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, the shy German theologian who sought to reawaken Christianity in a secularized Europe, died Saturday but will always be remembered as the first pope in 600 years to resign. He is 95 years old.

Benedict XVI shocked the world on February 11, 2013, when he announced in his typically soft-spoken Latin that he was no longer in a position to govern the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church he had been in 8 years of leadership in scandals and scandals. indifferent.

His dramatic decision paved the way for a conclave to elect Pope Francis as his successor. The two popes then lived side by side in the Vatican Gardens, an unprecedented arrangement that laid the groundwork for a future “pope emeritus” to do the same.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni issued a statement on Saturday morning: “It is with pain that I inform that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away at 9:34 this morning in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesia Abbey. More information will be forthcoming as soon as possible.” release.”

The Vatican said Benedict’s body would be on public display in St. Peter’s Basilica from Monday for faithful to pay their last respects.

Former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who never wanted to be pope, plans to spend his final years at the age of 78 in “peace and tranquility” in his native Bavaria.

Instead, he was forced to follow in the footsteps of his beloved St John Paul II, leading the church through the fallout from a clergy sex abuse scandal, which then erupted when his steward stole his personal papers and They were given to a reporter.

He once said that being elected pope felt like a “guillotine” had fallen on him.

Still, he began the work with a single-minded vision to rekindle faith in a world that he often lamented seemed to think it was okay without God.

On World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany in 2005, on his first foreign trip as pope, he told the one million young people who had gathered in the vast field: “There is a strange forgetting of God in vast parts of the world today. .” As if everything would be the same without him. ”

Through some decisive and often controversial moves, he sought to remind Europe of its Christian heritage. He set the Catholic Church on a conservative, traditional path that often alienated progressives. He eased restrictions on celebrating the Old Latin Mass and launched a crackdown on American nuns, insisting the church stay true to its teachings and traditions in the face of a changing world. This path was in many ways reversed by his successor, Francis, whose sympathy for moral precedence alienated the traditionalists whom Benedict was so indulgent.

Benedict’s style is very different from that of John Paul or Francis. Not a globe-trotting media darling or a populist, Benedict is a teacher, theologian and scholar at heart: quiet, contemplative, with a fierce mind. He speaks in passages, not vocals. He has a soft spot for Orange Fanta and his beloved library. When he was elected pope, he had his entire study moved — as is — from his apartment just outside the Vatican walls into the Apostolic Palace. The books followed him to his retirement home.

“They were all my advisors,” he said of his book in a 2010 book-length interview with “Light of the World.” “I know every nook and cranny, everything has a history.”

Benedict’s love of history and tradition endeared him to members of the traditionalist wing of the Catholic Church. For them, even in retirement, Benedict remained a beacon of nostalgia for the Orthodoxy and Latin Mass of their youth—they preferred the Pope to Francis.

Over time, the complaints of this group of ultra-conservatives, amplified by the sympathetic American conservative Catholic media, would become a major source of opposition to Francis, who responded to what he said was a threat of secession by reimposing restrictions on Old Latin Benedict looses Mass.

Like his predecessor John Paul, Benedict made reaching out to the Jewish people a hallmark of his papacy. His first official act as pope was a letter to the Jewish community in Rome, making him only the second pope in history to enter a synagogue after John Paul.

In his 2011 book “Jesus of Nazareth,” Benedict thoroughly absolves the Jewish people of the death of Christ, explaining biblically and theologically why the Jewish people as a whole died for Christ The responsible argument has no biblical basis for the death of Jesus.

“It’s clear that Benedict was a true friend of the Jewish people,” said Rabbi David Rosen, head of the American Jewish Committee’s Office of Interfaith Relations, when Benedict retired.

However, Benedict also offended some Jews who were outraged by his constant defense and elevation of the sainthood of Pope Pius XII, the World War II pope whom some accused of failing to adequately condemn the Holocaust. When Benedict reversed the excommunication of a traditionalist English bishop who denied the Holocaust, they sharply criticized him.

Benedict’s relationship with the Muslim world has also been mixed. In September 2006—five years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, he angered Muslims with a speech in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor in which he described some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and Inhuman”, especially his order to spread the faith “by the sword”.

Follow-up comments following the massacre of Christians in Egypt led the Al-Azhar Center in Cairo, home of Sunni Muslim studies, to suspend ties with the Vatican, which were only restored under Francis.

The Vatican under Benedict suffered from notorious public relations blunders, and at times Benedict himself was to blame. He angered the United Nations and several European governments when he told reporters en route to Africa in 2009 that distributing condoms would not solve AIDS.

“Instead, it added to the problem,” Benedict said. A year later, he issued an amendment saying he could take the first step toward more responsible sex if a male prostitute used condoms to avoid transmitting HIV to his partner.

But Benedict’s legacy was irrevocably stained by the global sex abuse scandal that erupted in 2010, despite his responsibility as cardinal to turn the Vatican around on the issue.

The documents show that the Vatican was well aware of the problem but turned a blind eye for decades, sometimes rejecting bishops who were trying to do the right thing.

Benedict has first-hand knowledge of the scope of the problem because his old office — the Faith Doctrine Church, which he has led since 1982 — handles abuse cases.

In fact, it was he who made the then-revolutionary decision in 2001, before becoming Pope, after he realized that bishops around the world were not punishing abusers but simply moving them from one diocese to another. These cases can be raped again.

Once he became Pope, Benedict fundamentally reversed his beloved predecessor, John Paul, by taking action against the Reverend Marcial Maciel, the most notorious pedophile priest of the 20th century. Benedict took over Marcil’s Legion of Christ, a conservative religious organization held up by John Paul as a model of orthodoxy, following revelations that Marcil sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least three children .

After his retirement, an independent report accused Benedict of treating four priests during his tenure as bishop of Munich. He denied any personal wrongdoing but apologized for any “serious mistakes”.

As soon as Benedict’s abuse scandal subsided, another erupted.

In October 2012, Benedict’s former housekeeper, Paolo Gabriele, was convicted of aggravated theft after Vatican police discovered a large stash of papal papers in his apartment. Gabriele told Vatican investigators that he handed over the documents to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi because he believed the pope had not been informed of the Vatican’s “evil and corrupt” and that publicly exposing it would set the church on the right track.

Once the “Vatileaks” scandal is resolved, including the Pope’s pardon for Gabriele, Benedict will be free to make the extraordinary decision he has hinted at before: He announces that he will resign, rather than stay in office like all his predecessors Dead for nearly six centuries.

He told the cardinals: “After repeated examinations of my conscience before God, I am convinced that the strengths of my advanced age are no longer fit” to be pope.

He was last seen in public in February 2013 before boarding a helicopter to the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo for a private conclave. Benedict then largely kept his word that he would retire to a life of prayer, coming out only occasionally from his converted monastery for special events and writing occasional prefaces and messages.

Usually they are harmless, but a 2020 book — Benedict defends celibate clergy as Francis considers exceptions — sparked calls for a future “pope emeritus” to remain silent.

Despite his very different styles and priorities, Francis has often said that Benedict at the Vatican was like having a “smart grandfather” living at home.

Benedict is often misunderstood: Nicknamed “God’s Rottweiler” by the indifferent media, he was actually a very likeable and very intelligent scholar who dedicated his life to serving the Church he loved.

“Thank you for giving us a shining example of simple, humble workers in the Lord’s vineyard,” Benedict’s longtime deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said in his The pope told him during his last public event.

Benedict inherited the seemingly impossible task of following in the footsteps of John Paul when he was elected the 265th leader of the Church on April 19, 2005. He was the oldest pope elected in 275 years and the first German in nearly 1,000 years.

Born on April 16, 1927 in the Marktl Am Inn in Bavaria, Benedict wrote in his memoirs that in 1941 he joined the Nazi Youth Movement against his will at the age of 14 and that membership was compulsory. In April 1945, towards the end of the war, he deserted from the German army.

Benedict and his brother Georg were ordained in 1951. After teaching theology for several years in Germany, he was appointed bishop of Munich in 1977 and was elevated to the cardinal rank by Pope Paul VI three months later.

Before his death in 2020, his brother Georg was a frequent visitor to Pope Gandolfo’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. His sister died a few years ago. His “papal family” included Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, his personal secretary who was with him for a long time, another secretary and the dedicated woman who ran the papal apartment.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.