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Pope Benedict XVI reads his resignation statement during a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican on February 11, 2013 (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

Pope Benedict XVI, who had an impressive record as a teacher and defender of the basics of the Catholic faith, will go down in history as the first pope in almost 600 years to resign. Source: OSV News.

Benedict’s death came nearly 10 years after leaving the papacy to retire to what he said would be a life of prayer and study.

A close collaborator of St John Paul II and the theological expert behind many of his major teachings and gestures, Pope Benedict came to the papacy after 24 years heading the doctrinal congregation’s work of safeguarding Catholic teaching on faith and morals, correcting the work of some Catholic theologians and ensuring the theological solidity of the documents issued by other Vatican offices.

As Pope, he made historically important gestures to Catholics who had difficulty accepting all of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, particularly about the liturgy.

In 2007, he widened permission to use the “extraordinary” or pre-Vatican II form of the Mass and, a short time later, extended a hand to the traditionalist Society of St Pius X.

His papacy, which began when he was 78, was extremely busy for a man who already had a pacemaker and who had wanted to retire to study, write and pray when he turned 75.

Pope Benedict was the first pope to meet with victims of clerical sexual abuse. He clarified Church laws to expedite cases and mandated that bishops’ conferences put in place stringent norms against abuse.

Although he did not expect to travel much, he ended up making 24 trips to six continents and three times presided over World Youth Day mega-gatherings: in Germany in 2005, Australia in 2008 and Spain in 2011.

Under his oversight, the Vatican continued to highlight the Church’s moral boundaries on issues such as end-of-life medical care, marriage and homosexuality. But the Pope’s message to society at large focused less on single issues and more on the risk of losing the basic relationship between the human being and the Creator.

He discussed his February 2013 papacy resignation in Last Testament, a book-length interview with journalist Peter Seewald published in 2016. Insisting “my hour had passed, and I had given all I could”, Pope Benedict said he never regretted resigning, but he did regret hurting friends and faithful who were “really distressed and felt forsaken” by his stepping down.

Pope Benedict moved to the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo on February 28, 2013, the day his resignation took effect. He remained at the villa south of Rome for two months before he moved back to the Vatican on May 2, 2013, to live in a monastery remodelled as a residence for him.


Pope Benedict XVI Dies; Funeral To Be Jan. 5 In St. Peter’s Square (By Cindy Wooden, OSV News)