Pope Benedict XVI, First Pontiff to Retire, Dead at 95

FILE – Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful as he arrives in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican to bless the nativity scene on Dec. 31, 2011. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the German theologian who will be remembered as the first pope in 600 years to resign, has died, the Vatican announced Saturday. He was 95. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)

Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to step down since the 15th century, died on Saturday in Vatican City at age 95.

For several days, he had experienced declining health due to his advanced age, the Vatican press office said, with Pope Francis publicly sharing news of Benedict’s worsening condition earlier this week.

Pope Francis will preside over Benedict’s funeral on Thursday at St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican said.

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Born April 16, 1927, in Germany’s Bavaria, Joseph Ratzinger was a theologian by training. Following the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, Ratzinger was elected his successor after serving for a quarter of a century as the Vatican’s top enforcer of orthodoxy. He was the first German pope since the 11th century.

For his nearly eight years as pope, Benedict is remembered as one of the most conservative pontiffs in recent memory and a church leader who, by choosing to retire, charted a new course for the papacy.

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SOURCE: NPR, Sylvia Pogglioli

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