Vatican: More Details on Pope Benedict XVI's Last Words

He was the first German pope for more than 480 years - after the death of Benedict XVI.

Vatican: More Details on Pope Benedict XVI's Last Words

He was the first German pope for more than 480 years - after the death of Benedict XVI. say goodbye to believers this week. The pontiff emeritus died on Saturday at the age of 95 in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican, almost ten years after his spectacular resignation.

From Monday he will be publicly laid out in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, funeral service and burial are planned for Thursday.

His last words were "Lord, I love you," as the Vatican's own media portal Vatican News reported on Sunday evening, citing Benedict's private secretary Georg Gänswein. Accordingly, a nurse heard the words early Saturday morning around 3 a.m. On Saturday evening, the Argentine newspaper "La Nación", citing informed sources, wrote that Benedict's last words were "Jesus, I love you". Gänswein informed Pope Francis immediately after the death, as the newspaper, which is usually well informed about the incumbent pontiff, continued to write. The 86-year-old Argentine was ten minutes later in Benedict's monastery and prayed there in silence on his lifeless body.

Pope Francis called his predecessor a "faithful servant of the Gospel and the Church" at the weekly Angelus prayer in the Vatican on Sunday. Clergymen and politicians praised the Bavarian as a clever theologian. However, critics bemoaned Benedict's conservative course during his time as head of the church.

Ratzinger elected in 2005 to succeed John Paul II

Joseph Ratzinger, as his real name was, was born in Upper Bavaria and was elected Pope on April 19, 2005, succeeding John Paul II. Benedict continued the course of his Polish predecessor. He resisted modernizing the church, which brought him a lot of criticism. His tenure was overshadowed by the abuse scandal that plunged the Catholic Church into a deep crisis.

In 2013, Benedict caused a stir by becoming the first pope to resign voluntarily in more than 700 years. He justified his resignation with his advanced age and his poor health - he lacked the strength for the demanding office, he said.

Worldwide sympathy

The news of death caused great sympathy in Germany and worldwide, especially among the approximately 1.4 billion Catholics. Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote on Twitter that the world was losing a formative figure in the Catholic Church. "As a 'German' Pope, Benedict XVI was a special church leader for many, not only in this country," said the SPD politician.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid tribute to Benedict as a mediator between the religions. "The unity of Christianity and the dialogue between religions, the coexistence of religion and society, were particularly important to him. He sought dialogue with Jews and Muslims and all Christian denominations worldwide," wrote Steinmeier, who will travel to Rome for the funeral service.

For the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Georg Bätzing, Benedict XVI. "an impressive theologian and experienced pastor". The Catholics mourned a personality who gave the church hope and direction even in difficult times, the Bishop of Limburg told the German Press Agency. "Pope Benedict made the voice of the gospel - whether convenient or not - audible." UN Secretary-General António Guterres described Benedict as a "humble man of prayer and study".

The reform initiative "We are Church", on the other hand, described Benedict as a "theologian driven by distrust and frozen in fear" who had shaped the church "in a backward-looking manner".

Because of dealing with abuse cases in the headlines

Around the fifth anniversary of his election as Pope in 2010, the abuse of countless children by Catholic clergymen came to light - and how it had been covered up for decades. With the demand for "zero tolerance" against "sin in the church" and the request for forgiveness, Benedict positioned himself clearly in this crisis.

At the beginning of 2022, Benedikt's own handling of cases of abuse during his time as Archbishop of Munich and Freising made the headlines. An abuse report commissioned by the Archdiocese of Munich accused him of misconduct in four cases. Benedict was Archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982.

Shortly after the publication of the report, Benedikt had to correct a statement about his private secretary Georg Gänswein: Contrary to an initial account, he had taken part in an important meeting in 1980 in which a priest had been spoken about who had been accused of sexual abuse in the diocese of Essen several times had become noticeable to children. The case was explosive because the priest was reinstated as a pastor in Bavaria. A little later, Benedict apologized to all victims of sexual abuse in a public letter.

Bätzing recalled this letter. "He asked forgiveness from those affected, but questions remained unanswered." Criticism came from the "Eckiger Tisch" victim initiative. "The thousands of victims of abuse in his church around the world will have bad memories of him as the long-standing leader of the system to which they fell victim," said the spokesman for the initiative, Matthias Katsch, of the dpa.

Strict attitude on many issues

Benedict shaped the Catholic Church even before his pontificate. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, Cardinal Ratzinger had already written church history for more than 20 years. Numerous believers, especially in Europe, rejected his strict stance on issues such as birth control, abortion and celibacy. In other parts of the Catholic world church, for example in countries in Africa and Latin America, his line found support.

Up to 60,000 visitors are expected in Rome for the requiem on Thursday. From Monday to Wednesday, up to 35,000 believers should come to St. Peter's Basilica every day. The funeral services for Pope John Paul II had completely different dimensions in 2005: at that time several million pilgrims in Rome wanted to be there. Benedict himself wished for modest celebrations.

In his spiritual testament published by the Vatican, Benedict thanked God for giving him life and for guiding him through many tribulations. "Pray for me that the Lord would let me into the eternal mansions in spite of all my sins and shortcomings," he asked.

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