The emeritus pope, Benedict XVI, died this Saturday at the age of 95 in his residence, the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, in the Vatican gardens. This was announced this morning by the Holy See, reporting "with regret" that he passed away at 9:34 a.m., and that as of Monday, January 2, his body will be in the Basilica of Saint Peter to be fired by the faithful. . Everything has precipitated a few days after his successor, Pope Francis, alerted the world to his fragile condition, asking for a "special prayer" for him and implying that his situation was critical. "He is very sick and asking the Lord to comfort him and support him in that this testimony of love for the Church to the end," Francis had said, true to his style, at the end of his general audience every Wednesday. After the audience, Bergoglio went to visit him for the last time at the monastery, the residence of Benedict XVI in the Vatican gardens since his historic resignation in 2013. It had been known for a long time that he was getting weaker, and his voice was getting louder. more imperceptible, but until now it had remained stable inside the Vatican.
Joseph Ratzinger went down in history in 2013 for being the first pontiff in modern history to renounce the throne of Saint Peter. His words in Latin surprised the world and also his closest collaborators in the Vatican, who did not know a secret that he knew how to keep safe. Since then he lived in Matter Ecclesiae, from where he has barely left. The last time was to visit his brother Georg in his native Bavaria, who was also a priest and with whom he had an excellent relationship, and who died in 2020 at the age of 96. It was a very emotional trip for the emeritus, with a farewell flavor, and when he took the opportunity to go to the grave of his parents and his sister in the Ziegetsdorf cemetery, three kilometers from Regensburg. His public appearances have also been very rare. His last official one was at the end of August, when after the last consistory in which Franciscó created new cardinals, he went to his residence to meet them.
While Francis is more concerned with practical day-to-day issues, from getting involved in geopolitical conflicts or fighting to defend the most disadvantaged, Benedict represented another vision of the Church. He was considered a learned theologian, an intellectual pope and a noted conservatism. He wrote more than 60 books between 1963 and his resignation in 2013. "I'm more of a teacher, a person who reflects and meditates on spiritual issues," he said then. Socially, he was seen as a traditionalist: he rejected the rights of homosexuals, the use of condoms, and even threatened to excommunicate those who defended abortion. He adopted this conservative vision after living very closely, being a professor of Dogmatics at the University of Tübingen, the student revolts and May 68, which led him to fear that the traditional principles of Catholicism would be lost. However, during the Second Vatican Council, where he acted as a consultant to Cardinal Frings of Cologne, Ratzinger had a reputation as a reformer.
His relatively brief pontificate, of only eight years, was not as traveled as that of John Paul II, but Ratzinger also organized massive meetings of young people like the one in Cologne in 2015 or the one in Madrid in 2011. He traveled to Barcelona for the dedication of the Holy Family. In total he made 24 international trips as Pontiff, also to Cuba, Jerusalem or Istanbul.
His era began and ended with a stir. When John Paul II died and was elected in April 2005, he had to deal with the storm of sexual abuse cases that plagued the Church. There Ratzinger admitted the "sins", asked the victims for forgiveness and punished the Legionaries of Christ, always protected by John Paul II. He acknowledged the horrific crimes of Marcial Maciel, the organization's founder, and ordered him in 2006 to live a life of penance and prayer. Yet he was always accused of not doing enough to combat abuse. Above all, when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was in charge of the Vatican organization that had to fight against this scourge.
His last days at the head of the Catholic Church were also stormy, especially due to the Vatileaks scandal, the leak of the theft of confidential documents by the butler that revealed the internal struggles and corruption in the Vatican. The case was settled with the imprisonment of the Pope's butler, but no cardinal of the Catholic Church fell. All this led to the election of Francisco, a pope chosen to reform the Catholic Church and get it out of its greatest crisis.
Joseph Ratzinger was born in Markl (Bavaria) on April 16, 1927. He was the youngest of three brothers. He was ordained a priest on the same day as his brother Georg, in April 1951 in Munich. He was named archbishop of Munich and Freising by Paul VI in 1977 and created a cardinal shortly thereafter. Three years later, John Paul II promoted him to prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and when the Polish pope died, everyone pointed to him as his successor despite his advanced age, when he was 78 years old. . He was elected Pontiff in April 2005.
Since his resignation, the delicate question of how two popes were going to live together in the Vatican arose. The German promised that he would turn away from his successor, that he would live a life of prayer and remain hidden from the world. He did so for several years. But some interventions in his last times caused the protest of the sectors closest to Francisco, when Ratzinger began to give interviews, write articles, and even ventured to place the origin of sexual abuse in the revolution of 1968 and in a wrong interpretation. of the Second Vatican Council. What caused the most astonishment was a book written by the ultra-conservative Cardinal Robert Sarah, who initially presented it with Benedict's signature, where they pressured the Pope not to consider ordaining married men in the most remote areas of the planet and thus open the door to end the historical norm of celibacy in the Church. After much controversy, Sarah withdrew the signature of the emeritus pope after the intervention of Georg Gänswein himself, his historical private secretary.
Although some experts consider that it was to be expected that a theologian like Ratzinger would have something to say, others thought that Ratzinger should always have opted for silence so as not to hinder the leadership of his successor or give wings to his conservative opponents. After his death, it is presumable that in the Vatican they want to establish a protocol to regulate the coexistence of a pontiff who has resigned and another who is active. The era of the two popes is over. Now it remains to know the date on which the funeral will be held, which should take place next week between the fourth and sixth day after his death.