Former Pope Benedict XVI is dead at 95. He vacated the office of Pope almost a decade ago because of ailing health.
He led the Catholic Church for fewer than eight years until, in 2013, he became the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.
Benedict spent his final years at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery within the walls of the Vatican where he passed away at 09:34 (08:34 GMT) on Saturday.
‘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,’ Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
The German pope emeritus, whose birth name was Joseph Ratzinger, had been living a quiet life in a former convent inside the Vatican grounds since his shock decision to step down in February 2013.
His health had been declining for a long time, but the Vatican revealed on Wednesday that his situation had worsened, while his successor Pope Francis called for Catholics worldwide to pray for him.
His successor Pope Francis will lead the funeral on 5 January, BBC reports.
The Vatican said the body of the Pope Emeritus will be placed in St Peter’s Basilica from 2 January for ‘the greeting of the faithful’.
Bells rang out from Munich cathedral and a single bell was heard ringing from St Peter’s Square in Rome after the death was announced.
The successor, Pope Francis called the deceased ‘a gift to the church’, describing him as a noble and kind man.
At a New Year’s Eve service at the Vatican he paid tribute to his ‘dearest’ predecessor, emphasising ‘his sacrifices offered for the good of the church’.
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said Pope Benedict was ‘one of the great theologians of the 20th century’.
In his statement: ‘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 said.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the former pope ‘a great theologian whose UK visit in 2010 was an historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country’.
King Charles III said he received the news of Pope Benedict’s death with deep sadness and recalled with fondness meeting the him during a visit to the Vatican in 2009, according to BBC.
‘I also recall his constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill to all people, and to strengthen the relationship between the global Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.
Joe Biden – only the second Catholic to serve as US president commented on Pope Benedict’s death as he said he ‘will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith’.
The US President singled out the Pope’s remarks during a 2008 visit to the White House in which the former pontiff said ‘the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity’.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his New Year address to the nation, revered Pope Benedict as a ‘defender of traditional Christian values.’
With the death of Pope Benedict XI the Catholic world has lost an unrivalled receptacle of theological knowledge, intellectualism and lived experience.
While little has changed in terms of doctrinal discussion at the Vatican in the nearly 10 years since he stepped down, what has changed is the spirit of the papacy.