Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died aged 95 on Saturday, the Vatican has said. The former Pontiff's health had deteriorated in recent weeks, prompting Pope Benedict to seek prayers for him earlier this week.
Benedict, who was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became the leader of the Catholic Church in 2005, created history by resigning eight years later. Benedict, who was known for ideological rigor, became the Pope in 2005, succeeding Pope John Paul II. Benedict's resignation, citing ill health, shocked the Catholic world, and there was significant opposition to the action from among the believers. By stepping down as the Pontiff, Benedict became the first leader of the Catholic Church to stand down in 600 years. The last Pope before Benedict to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415.
The former Pope, who hails from Germany, was living at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican. His death came at 09:34 on Saturday, the Vatican said. A single bell rang out from St Peter's Square in Rome following the pope's death.
Benedict's funeral will take place on January 5. Pope Francis will lead the funeral prayers. The wake for Benedict will be held in St Peter's Basilica from 2 January.
The details of the funeral have not yet been announced. International figures are likely to attend the funeral as Benedict was also the head of state of the Vatican City.
According to Peter Seewald, who was the biographer of the late Pope speculated that Benedict will be buried in the tomb in which Pope John Paul II was buried. "Rites and ceremonies after the death of a reigning pope are clear and already well elaborated ... The big problem is: What do you do if it's a pope emeritus who dies? That's a new experience," Vatican expert Ulrich Nersinger said, according to Diario AS.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Pope Benedict represented 'spiritual, cultural and intellectual depth of his Magisterium'. "He put his life at the service of the universal Church and spoke, and will continue to speak, to the hearts and minds of men with the spiritual, cultural and intellectual depth of his Magisterium," Meloni said.
French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also condoled the death of the former Pope.
"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," said head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin said Benedict was a defender of traditional Christian values," Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said Pope Benedict was one of the greatest theologians of his age.