Former pope Benedict XVI dies at 95

© Andrew Medichini, AP

Former pope Benedict XVI has died at the age of 95, the Vatican announced Saturday, almost a decade after he became the first pontiff to resign in six centuries.

"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 death brings to an end an unprecedented situation in which two "men in white" –Benedict and Francis – had co-existed within the walls of the tiny city state.

Benedict's funeral will be held in St. Peter's Square on Thursday, January 5 and will be presided over by Pope Francis, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said on Saturday.

In 2005 the body of John Paul II, the last pope to die, lay in state before a funeral mass in St Peter's Square attended by one million people, including heads of state.

Scandal and in-fighting

Benedict had almost entirely withdrawn from public view, his health reported to be shaky and the few photographs that emerged of him exposing his frailty.

He later said his election felt "like the guillotine".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


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