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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned papacy in 2013, dies at 95

Pope Benedict XVI speaks during his final general audience before his retirement in St. Peter Square at the Vatican on Feb. 27, 2013. Benedict died Saturday. File Photo by Stefano Spanziani/UPI
1 of 4 | Pope Benedict XVI speaks during his final general audience before his retirement in St. Peter Square at the Vatican on Feb. 27, 2013. Benedict died Saturday. File Photo by Stefano Spanziani/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who reigned from 2005 until his unexpected resignation in 2013, died Saturday at his residence following several days of declining health, the Vatican announced. He was 95.

The Holy See press office said the Pope Emeritus, born Joseph Ratzinger, died at 9:34 a.m. at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican City, which he had chosen as his residence after resigning from the ministry nine years ago.

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His body will lay in state in Saint Peter's Basilica starting Monday. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters Pope Francis will preside over Benedict's funeral Thursday morning in St. Peter's Square.

Benedict's death came four days after Francis shared news of the German prelate's worsening condition at the end of the last General Audience of the year. Italian news agency ANSA said Benedict's condition worsened in the days before Christmas and that he had begun to suffer from respiratory problems.

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He received the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick in the monastery on Wednesday, Bruni said.

Benedict announced his decision to resign from the papacy at age 85 on Feb. 11, 2013 -- becoming the first pope to resign in 600 years.

"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," he said at the time.

Condolences poured in from around world Saturday after his death was announced.

"Jill and I join Catholics around the world, and so many others, in mourning the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI," U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement.

"I had the privilege of spending time with Pope Benedict at the Vatican in 2011 and will always remember his generosity and welcome as well as our meaningful conversation. He will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith," he added.

"Pope Benedict's passing saddens me," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet. "My sympathy goes out to all Catholics. He had set a strong signal through his resignation. He saw himself first as a servant for God and his Church. Once his physical strength waned, he continued to serve through the power of his prayers."

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Benedict was born at Marktl am Inn, Germany, on April 16, 1927, the son of a police commissioner.

By the age of 17 he had served briefly in a Nazi antiaircraft unit as a member of the Hitler Youth. Despite his wartime record, Jewish groups and historians agreed the experience was very common for young men of his generation and suggested no sympathy for the Nazis.

He began studying for the priesthood in 1946 at the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and at the University of Munich. He received his priestly ordination in 1951 and a year later he began teaching at the Higher School of Freising.

He went on to teach at Bonn, from 1959 to 1963; at Münster from 1963 to 1966; and at Tübingen from 1966 to 1969 as he honed his reputation as an important Catholic theologian.

In 1977, Pope Paul VI named Benedict Archbishop of Munich and Freising shortly afterwards made him a Cardinal with the priestly title of "Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino."

In 1982 Benedict resigned as archbishop to concentrate on his powerful new role as the head of the Vatican's doctrinal office, during which time he emerged as a prominent voice for conservate Catholic theology.

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He led the project to produce the new Catechism of the Catholic Church. It was officially promulgated by John Paul II in 1992 on the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

In 2002, John Paul approved his election as Dean of the College Cardinals.

Benedict was elected as the 265th Pope on April 19, 2005, following John Paul II's death. He was the oldest person to be elected Pope since 1730, and had been a Cardinal for a longer period of time than any Pope since 1724.

During his papacy, Benedict was continually confronted by the church's child sex abuse scandals. He said in 2012 the church must make it a "top priority" to help victims who were sexually abused by clergy members.

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Anita Pointer of the Grammy-winning Pointer Sisters stands with Andy Madadian (C) and La Toya Jackson (L) as Madadian is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2020. Pointer, who performed alongside her sisters June and Ruth, died at the age of 74 on December 31 following a battle with cancer. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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