Joseph Ratzinger passed away at 9:34 a.m. on Saturday morning in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican, where he had resided since his historic resignation from the pontificate in 2013.  His state of health had worsened due to his advanced age.

In a simple statement from the Holy See, issued in six languages, it said, “It is with regret that I announce that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away at 9:34 a.m. in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery of the Vatican.”

The funeral of Benedict XVI, the first Pope to resign after six centuries, will be held on Thursday, January 5, in Saint Peter’s Square and will be officiated by his successor, Pope Francis.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, an intelligent theologian with a complex personality, was 95 year of age.  There had been concern for the state of his health since Wednesday, December 28, when his successor, Francis, acknowledged that he was “very ill” and asked for “a special prayer” from the faithful who attended his general audience.

Shortly after, the spokesman for the Holy See, Matteo Bruni, confirmed that Benedict XVI’s situation had been “aggravated by his advanced age.”

After learning of his situation, numerous faithful had gathered in different dioceses and temples around the world to pray for him. His personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, had repeatedly stated in recent years that he was like “a candle that burns out slowly and serenely .”

He had rarely left the leonine walls, once to visit his inseparable brother, Georg, in the hospital and in June 2020 when he travelled to Regensburg to see him again, just a few weeks before he died, also at the age of 95.

Since April 2, 2013, Ratzinger had lived surrounded by his Vatican “family”, made up of his secretary, a doctor, a nurse and four consecrated lay women from the ‘Memores Domini’ institute, which belongs to the Communion and Liberation movement, amongst which they distribute the housework and take care of the needs of the emeritus pope.

Following his death, for the first time in almost 10 years, there will be only one pope. But that may be temporary as his passing now eases the way for his successor, Francis, to follow suit. It is a move he has long suggested he wants to make, saying last year that he would like to see the resignation of popes become normalised.

With Benedict’s death, the path to retirement for the 86 year old pontiff becomes a little easier. 13 March will be the 10th anniversary of Francis’s election as the Roman Catholic church’s 266th pope. Some time around then, or perhaps after a key synod of bishops in the autumn, we may see an announcement as he too decides to take the title of emeritus bishop of Rome, and live the rest of his days quietly outside the Vatican.