Former Pope Benedict XVI, who was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, died on Saturday at the age of 95 in the Mater Ecclesia Monastery in the Vatican. Benedict had received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick on Wednesday.
The Associated Press reports, "Pope Francis will celebrate his funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Thursday, an unprecedented event in which a current pope will celebrate the funeral of a former one."
Benedict was born in the German State of Bavaria in 1927. He was ordained a priest in that state in 1951. He was elected pope in 2005. Benedict was an extensive author whose books rebuked the dictatorship of relativism and reinforced the relationship with Christ as a central theological pillar.
Benedict was one of the few popes in history to resign from the position and his resignation was the first time a pope had resigned in nearly 600 years. Popes generally serve until their deaths but Benedict resigned on February 11, 2013 and cited his "advanced age."
Pope Benedict explained why he chose that name and said, "I wish to speak of the name I chose on becoming bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal Church. I chose to call myself Benedict XVI ideally as a link to the venerated Pontiff, Benedict XV, who guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War. He was a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely, first to avoid the drama of war and then to limit its terrible consequences. In his footsteps I place my ministry, in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples, profoundly convinced that the great good of peace is above all a gift of God, a fragile and precious gift to be invoked, safeguarded and constructed, day after day and with everyone's contribution.
"The name Benedict also evokes the extraordinary figure of the great 'patriarch of western monasticism,' St. Benedict of Norcia, co-patron of Europe with Cyril and Methodius. The progressive expansion of the Benedictine Order which he founded exercised an enormous influence on the spread of Christianity throughout the European continent. For this reason, St. Benedict is much venerated in Germany, and especially in Bavaria, my own land of origin; he constitutes a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe and a powerful call to the irrefutable Christian roots of European culture and civilization."
Pope Francis, Benedict's successor, said on Wednesday during an event at the Vatican that Pope Benedict's health had deteriorated and that he was "very sick."
Francis said, "I want to ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict who sustains the Church in his silence. He is very sick."
"We ask the Lord to console and sustain him in this witness of love for the Church to the very end," Francis added.
A spokesperson for the Vatican, Matteo Bruni, confirmed Pope Benedict's health was in decline and said, "in the last few hours there has been a deterioration due to the advancement of (Benedict’s) age."
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