Former Pope Benedict XVI Dies Age 95

Benedict XVI, the Pope Emeritus and first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign his position, passed away in Vatican City on Saturday at the age of 95.

The Catholic Church’s leader from 2005 to 2013 had been in ill health for some time. The news was confirmed in a statement from the Vatican.

“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.

“Further information will be provided as soon as possible.”

Pope Francis’ urgent plea for prayers for Benedict appears to have been answered, as news of the former pope’s death has been reported days later. The pontiff had asked the faithful to pray for Benedict as he was facing a period of ill health.

“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 on Wednesday.

Pope Benedict XVI’s health has been waning in recent years, leading to his decision to retire on February 11, 2013, after citing his “advanced age.”

In his farewell address, he promised to remain out of the public eye, yet still contributed to religious discussions, which caused a stir among the Catholic Church.

Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927, was a powerful force in the Catholic Church for decades. After being ordained as a priest in 1951, he was appointed cardinal in 1977 and served as chief theological adviser to Pope John Paul II.

In 1981, he took over as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the Vatican office that oversees Catholic doctrine on faith and morals.

Nicknamed “Cardinal No” for his efforts to challenge liberation theology, religious pluralism, and traditional teachings on homosexuality and female ordination,

Benedict was elected pope in April 2005, following John Paul II’s death.

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