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Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI dies in Vatican at 95

Former pontiff passed away in Vatican almost a decade after he stood down.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died aged 95 at his Vatican City residence on at 09.34 on Saturday 31 December, the Holy See press office announced.

The death of Benedict came after Pope Francis appealed for prayers for his "very sick" predecessor during the weekly general audience on Wednesday.

The former pope lived a secluded life in the Mater Ecclesaie monastery in the Vatican Gardens since his shock resignation in 2013, and in recent years had become increasingly frail.

Benedict XVI served as pope from 2005 until he resigned in 2013, on health grounds, in a move that stunned the world.

In 2005 Cardinal Ratzinger succeeded his close friend John Paul II to become the 265th pope and took the name Benedict XVI. Previously he had occupied the powerful Vatican post as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) from 1981-2005.

In his former role as Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict was known for being a tough, arch-conservative figure as well as being a highly regarded university theologian. He upheld the Church's main doctrines on birth control, abortion and homosexuality.

Born in Bavaria in 1927, Benedict became the first German pope since the 11th century and, at 78, the fifth oldest pontiff in history on his election.

As pontiff he was much more reserved than his charismatic predecessor, whose dynamic papacy lasted more than 26 years, and Benedict struggled in the public role. Although he was the first pope to tackle clerical child abuse, he was less capable of dealing with infighting within the Vatican.

He did not enjoy the same relationship with the media as his predecessor and successor, dating back to his role as head of the CDF when his uncompromising style earned him the nickname of "God's Rottweiler".

Benedict's general popularity was not helped when the press unearthed a document dating from 1986 in which the then Cardinal Ratzinger described homosexuality as a “more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil”.

Benedict's resignation was preceded by the so-called Vatileaks scandal which saw his butler jailed for stealing sensitive papal documents about power struggles within the Vatican hierarchy and leaking them to the press. 

Following the election of Pope Francis, whose papacy has been markedly different from the outset, Benedict lived a low-key existence in a specially-converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens.

He suffered from deteriorating health and rarely appeared in public. Neither did he interfere with the work of his successor - despite initial fears that he might - stating in an interview published on 28 June 2019 by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera: "The Pope is one, it is Francis."

During his retirement he continued to wear white robes. Benedict was a well-known cat lover and a gifted linguist. He enjoyed listening to classical music and was an accomplished piano player.

The last time he travelled abroad was in July 2020 to Regensburg, Germany, to visit his ailing and much-loved older brother Fr Georg Ratzinger, who died two weeks later.

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