Former Pope Benedict XVI, who became the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years, has died aged 95.
Pope Francis succeeded him as head of the Catholic Church Asking the faithful to pray for him At the close of his general audience on Wednesday morning.
“It is with regret that I inform you that Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, died at 9:34 this morning at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican,” a spokesman said.
“Further information will be provided as soon as possible.”
The Vatican said the health of the pope emeritus, as Benedict was called after he resigned, had “deteriorated in the last hours” due to his age, and doctors were constantly monitoring his condition.
After the audience, Francis went to meet Benedict at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City.
After Benedict left the papacy in 2013, he lived in the separate nation-state of Vatican City, which borders the Italian capital Rome.
He had become increasingly frail in recent years after devoting his post-papal life to prayer and meditation.
For hundreds of years before Benedict became the Holy Father, popes headed the Catholic Church until their deaths.
On February 11, 2013, Benedict’s surprise announcement of his abdication shocked the Catholic world, forcing the Church to deal with an event it had not seen in centuries.
He said he wanted to resign because he no longer had the physical and mental strength to run the church.
Before being elected pope in 2005, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger served as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
He played a powerful role for 24 years, earning the nickname “God’s Rottweiler” due to his staunchly conservative religious views.
Speaking before announcing his death, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster said Benedict would be remembered as “one of the great theologians of the 20th century”.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols told Times Radio that he had met Benedict several times and that he was “always very polite”.
“When he came to this country in 2011 he was called ‘God’s Rottweiler’, but when he left I think he was considered a great uncle.
“There was a real gentleness about him, and when I saw him just a year ago, in September of last year, he hadn’t changed. He was very, very frail, but very bright and very alert and with It was too much.”
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