VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI, the former head of the Catholic Church whose historic resignation in 2013 created the position of “pope emeritus,” has died following a short illness. He was 95 years old.
The Vatican confirmed his death Saturday local time. His body will lie in state at St. Peter’s Basilica beginning January 2, the Vatican said. According to Benedict XVI’s secretary, Archbishop George Ganswein, his last words were, “Jesus, I love you.”
A distinguished theologian and prolific writer, the late pontiff began his reign in 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II. But his papacy ended abruptly in 2013 when he resigned due to health concerns in his advancing age. He was the first pope to step down in 600 years.
Benedict’s legacy, consistent with his traditionally orthodox views, includes reaffirming the Church’s stance against heterodoxy, abortion, contraception, and women’s ordination. He imposed restrictions on homosexuals becoming priests, despite heavy resistance from activists within the Church. Of note, Benedict’s legacy included his declaration (or Motu Proprio) Summorum Pontificum allowing the Traditional Latin Mass to be celebrated freely without the need of permission from…