VATICAN CITY (WFLA) — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died Saturday after days of health issues, according to the Vatican.
The Holy See Press Office said the former “Vicar of Christ” died at 9:34 a.m. at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican, where he had lived after giving up his position in 2013.
Vatican officials said Benedict XVI, originally born Joseph Ratzinger, had been suffering from health problems for days due to his old age.
The pope emeritus’ successor, Pope Francis, asked the people to pray for the former pontiff before his death in light of his predecessor’s declining health.
“Let us ask the Lord to console him and to sustain him in this witness of love for the Church, until the end,” Pope Francis said.
Born in 1927 at Marktl am Inn, Germany, Benedict XVI grew up in the turmoil of Nazi violence that culminated in World War II.
According to the Vatican, the young Joseph Ratzinger witnessed Nazis beat a priest before Mass as the party took a hostile approach to the Catholic Church. He was also enrolled in an auxiliary anti-aircraft corps until September 1944, when he was 17 years old.
After World War II, the pope-to-be studied philosophy and theology before being ordained as a priest in 1951.
Known for his academic approach to theology, Benedict XVI climbed the ranks of the priesthood before being granted the rank of cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977.
Nearly 30 years later, Joseph Ratzinger would be elected as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II, a now-canonized saint who held the papacy for 27 years.
At the time of his election, the 78-year-old Benedict XVI was the oldest man to be elected Pope since 1730, and eight years later, he announced his resignation with the following statement:
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter.”Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
His papacy ended on Feb. 28, 2013. The following month, the 2013 papal conclave named Benedict XVI’s successor: the Argentinian bishop Jorge Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis.
The Vatican said the former pope’s body will be taken to St. Peter’s Basilica Monday. His funeral will be Thursday in St. Peter’s Square.