Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. is dead. "It is with great pain that I have to announce that Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus, passed away today at 9:34 a.m. in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican," said the spokesman for the Holy See, Matteo Bruni. The health of the native Bavarian had recently deteriorated.
Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope on April 19, 2005, succeeding John Paul II. Benedict was the first German pope in about 480 years. Almost eight years later, he resigned voluntarily in a spectacular step - as the first pope in more than 700 years. He justified the step with his advanced age and his poor health - he lacked the strength for the demanding office, he said at the time. During the pontificate of his successor Francis, Benedict lived in seclusion in a monastery in the Vatican Gardens.
During his pontificate, Benedict continued the conservative course of his predecessor. He resisted modernizing the church, which brought him a lot of criticism. The initial enthusiasm of the Germans waned. His tenure was overshadowed above all by abuse scandals that plunged the Catholic Church into a deep crisis.
Benedict shaped the Catholic Church long before the beginning of his pontificate. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, Cardinal Ratzinger, born on April 16, 1927 in Marktl am Inn in Upper Bavaria, 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, however, the conservative line found support.
In 2022, his own handling of cases of abuse during his time as Archbishop of Munich and Freising (1977-1982) also hit the headlines. An abuse report commissioned by the Archdiocese of Munich accused him of misconduct in four cases. A little later, Benedict apologized to all victims of sexual abuse in a public letter.
Previously, the retired pope had become quiet. Although he was mentally fit into old age, as his private secretary Georg Gänswein repeatedly emphasized, his physical condition was severe. Although he wanted to remain “hidden from the world”, his writings on sensitive topics such as celibacy or abuse repeatedly fueled speculation that he probably did not agree, at least in part, with the course taken by his successor Francis.
Benedikt has not made any public appearances recently. He celebrated his 90th birthday again in 2017 with a delegation from his native Bavaria. After that he only received occasional visits to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery. In recent years he has, in his own words, been on a pilgrimage "home".