We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Pope Benedict XVI

Irish and world leaders pay tributes as former pope Benedict XVI dies aged 95

Benedict XVI resigned as pope in 2013.

LAST UPDATE | 31 Dec 2022

FORMER POPE BENEDICT XVI has died at the age of 95, the Vatican has said, 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.

Pope Francis has paid tribute to his “dearest” predecessor Benedict XVI.

“With emotion we remember a person so noble, so kind,” Francis said at a New Year’s Eve service in St Peter’s Basilica, offering thanks “for all the good he has done” and underlining “his sacrifices offered for the good of the church”.

Tributes in Ireland were led by President Michael D Higgins, who praised “his untiring efforts to find a common path in promoting peace and goodwill throughout the world, including a steadfast interest in peace in Northern Ireland”.

“He will be remembered too for the value he attached to intellectual work and for the personal commitment he gave to such within the Roman Catholic Church, this work being respected by both supporters and critics.

Of particular importance was that during his tenure, Pope Benedict sought to highlight both the common purpose of the world’s major religions and his injunctions as to how our individual responsibilities as citizens require the highest standards of ethics in our actions.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was saddened by his passing, adding:

Leading the Catholic Church for almost a decade, the son of a police officer and a cook, the first German elected as pope in one thousand years, he was ultimately a ‘humble worker in vineyard of the Lord’. Today my thoughts are with Archbishop Eamon Martin and with all those in Ireland who will find the news of his passing as both saddening but also difficult.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin also expressed his condolence on the death of the former pope.

“Pope Emeritus Benedict will hold a special place in the collective memory of Catholics the world over, as the first pope in almost 600 years to retire,” Martin said.

“He showed great strength of character and humility in leaving the papacy at a time when by his own analysis, his declining health meant he could not provide the leadership he felt the Church required at the time,” he said. 

“He will be remembered for his commitment to global peace including in Northern Ireland and particularly for those of the Catholic faith as a respected theologian and scholar.” 

Eamon Martin, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, in a statement that “it was [Benedict's] characteristic humility and gentleness which struck me when I first met him in 2009 while visiting the Vatican as Executive Secretary to the Irish Bishops’ Conference”.

I found him to be calm and softly spoken, kindly and personable, and genuinely interested in the Church in Ireland.
Pope Benedict XVI understood the need and potential for all people of goodwill to work for the realisation of the common good.

Martin also touched on the former pope’s work as a theologian: “For all his intellectual abilities, he always ensured that the faith was not reduced to academic hair splitting; religion, he emphasised, is not a lofty concept or an ethical ideal.”

The Church of Ireland’s Archbishop John McDowell extended the sympathies of his church, adding that “we owe a common debt to him, not least as a biblical scholar and the unique richness of his exploration of the person of Jesus”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz paid tribute to Benedict XVI as a “special church leader” who helped shape the Catholic church.

“As a ‘German’ pope, Benedict XVI was a special church leader for many, not only this country,” Scholz wrote on Twitter.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “saddened” by the former pope’s death, calling him a “great theologian”, while France’s President Emmanuel Macron praised him for his work towards a “more brotherly world”.


Benedict will be buried in the papal tombs under St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican has said.

Following his funeral on Thursday, “the coffin of the Supreme Pontiff Emeritus will be taken to St Peter’s Basilica, and then into the Vatican Grottoes for burial,” it said.

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.

Back in 2013, he had cited his declining physical and mental health in his decision to become the first pope since 1415 to give up the job as head of the worldwide Catholic church.

file-photo-dated-180910-of-pope-benedict-xvi-leading-a-prayer-vigil-at-hyde-park-in-london-on-the-third-day-of-his-state-visit-pope-emeritus-benedict-xvi-has-died-the-vatican-has-announced-issue Benedict pictured during a visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Benedict was a respected theologian but his papacy was beset by Vatican in-fighting and a scandal over clerical sexual abuse of children that rocked the Catholic Church the world over, in which he was criticised for a lack of leadership.

The abuse scandal overshadowed his final months after a damning report for the German church in January 2022 accused him of personally failing to stop four predatory priests in the 1980s while archbishop of Munich.

He denied wrongdoing and the Vatican strongly defended his record in being the first pope to apologise for the scandals, who expressed his own “deep remorse” and met with victims.

© – AFP 2022 Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan and Garreth MacNamee.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel