Pope Benedict XVI death: is former Pope’s cause of death known? What has the Vatican said?

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He retired as Pope in 2013

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has died, the Vatican has announced.

The former head of the Catholic Church was 95 years old. He was Pope between 2005 and 2013, before retiring due to ill health.

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The Vatican had previously said that Benedict was stable but that his health was deteriating in an update earlier in the week. He was replaced by Pope Francis nine years ago.

Here is all you need to know:

What has the Vatican said?

The Vatican has announced the passing of Pope Benedict XVI. He was 95 years old.

A statement from spokesman Matteo Bruni said: “With pain I inform that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesia Monastery in the Vatican. Further information will be released as soon as possible.”

It comes after an update earlier this week in which it was said he was in a stable condition. In an update on Friday (30 December) Mr Bruni said in a statement: “Last night the Pope Emeritus was able to rest well. He also participated in the celebration of Holy Mass in his room yesterday afternoon. At present his condition is stationary.”

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On Wednesday (28 December), Pope Francis revealed that his 95-year-old predecessor was “very ill” and he went to see him in his home in the Vatican Gardens.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, walking with Pope Benedict XVI in the Palace of Holyroodhouse.Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, walking with Pope Benedict XVI in the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, walking with Pope Benedict XVI in the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Is his cause of death known?

Pope Benedict had ill health in recent years, he previously suffered a mild stroke in 2005. He retired in 2013 due to his health.

A cause of death has not been announced.

Did Pope Benedict retire?

In 2013, Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to resign, and he chose to live out his retirement in seclusion in a converted monastery in the Vatican. Gregory XII was the last Pope to resign and that took place in 1415.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had never wanted to be pope, planning at age 78 to spend his final years writing in the “peace and quiet” of his native Bavaria. Instead, he was forced to follow the footsteps of the beloved St John Paul II and run the church through the fallout of the clerical sex abuse scandal and then a second scandal that erupted when his own butler stole his personal papers and gave them to a journalist.

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Being elected pope, he once said, felt like a “guillotine” had come down on him.

Benedict’s reign was different than his predecessor

He set about the job with a single-minded vision to rekindle the faith in a world that, he frequently lamented, seemed to think it could do without God. “In vast areas of the world today, there is a strange forgetfulness of God,” he told one million young people gathered on a vast field for his first foreign trip as pope, to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in 2005. “It seems as if everything would be just the same even without him.”

With some decisive, often controversial moves, he tried to remind Europe of its Christian heritage. And he set the Catholic Church on a conservative, tradition-minded path that often alienated progressives. He relaxed the restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass and launched a crackdown on American nuns, insisting that the church stay true to its doctrine and traditions in the face of a changing world. It was a path that in many ways was reversed by his successor, Francis, whose mercy-over-morals priorities alienated the traditionalists who had been so indulged by Benedict.

Benedict’s style could not have been more different from that of John Paul or Francis. No globe-trotting media darling or populist, Benedict was a teacher, theologian and academic to the core: quiet and pensive with a fierce mind. He spoke in paragraphs, not soundbites.

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He had a weakness for orange Fanta as well as 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.

“In them are all my advisers,” he said of his books in the 2010 book-length interview “Light of the World.” “I know every nook and cranny, and everything has its history.”

What was Pope Benedict’s real name?

He was born as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger but chose Benedict XVI as his papal name.

How has the world paid tribute to him?

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said Benedict was “one of the great theologians of the 20th century”. In a statement, he said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Pope Benedict. He will be remembered as one of the great theologians of the 20th century.

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“I remember with particular affection the remarkable Papal Visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.” He was through and through a gentleman, through and through a scholar, through and through a pastor, through and through a man of God – close to the Lord and always his humble servant.

“Pope Benedict is very much in my heart and in my prayers. I give thanks to God for his ministry and leadership.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “I am saddened to learn of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He was a great theologian whose UK visit in 2010 was an historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country.

“My thoughts are with Catholic people in the UK and around the world today.” Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “I am sorry to hear of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict. His state visit in 2010 was a historic and joyous moment for Catholics in Britain. May he rest in peace.”

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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also hailed Benedict as “one of the greatest theologians of his age”.

In a statement, he said: “Today I join with the church throughout the world, and especially with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and all in the Catholic Church, in mourning the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

“In Pope Benedict’s long life and ministry of service to Christ in His Church he saw many profound changes in the church and in the world. He lived through the Nazi regime in Germany and served briefly in the Second World War. As a younger theologian and priest he witnessed first-hand the discussions of the Second Vatican Council. As a professor and then as an Archbishop he lived in a divided Germany but saw too the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of his homeland.

“Pope Benedict was one of the greatest theologians of his age – committed to the faith of the Church and stalwart in its defence. In all things, not least in his writing and his preaching, he looked to Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God. It was abundantly clear that Christ was the root of his thought and the basis of his prayer.

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“In 2013 Pope Benedict took the courageous and humble step to resign the papacy, the first Pope to do so since the fifteenth century. In making this choice freely he acknowledged the human frailty that affects us all. In his retirement in Rome he has led a life of prayer and now he has gone to the eternal rest granted by the Father. In his life and ministry Pope Benedict strove to direct people to Christ. May he now rest in Christ’s peace, and rise in glory with all the Saints.”

Irish President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to Benedict’s “steadfast interest in peace in Northern Ireland”.

In a statement, he said: “It is with sadness that Catholics around the world will have learned of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. At this time of the return of war on our continent and in so many areas of the world, he will be remembered for his untiring efforts to find a common path in promoting peace and goodwill throughout the world, including a steadfast interest in peace in Northern Ireland.

“He will be remembered too for the value he attached to intellectual work and for the personal commitment he gave to such within the Roman Catholic Church, this work being respected by both supporters and critics. Of particular importance was that during his tenure, Pope Benedict sought to highlight both the common purpose of the world’s major religions and his injunctions as to how our individual responsibilities as citizens require the highest standards of ethics in our actions.

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“May I extend my condolences to his family, to Pope Francis, to Archbishop Eamon Martin, to his friends and colleagues, and to all members of the Catholic faith both in Ireland and across the world.”

More to follow.

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