Pope Benedict XVI Dies, Here is the next protocol


“With sorrow I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, passed away today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican at 95,” spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.

Here’s what we know:

The German pope, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected in 2005 as a doctrinal conservative, but stunned the world by resigning in 2013 — the first to do so in centuries.

The first pope to step down in six centuries dies in retirement.

Benedict’s body will be in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday ‘to be greeted by the faithful.’

Pope Benedict XVI, the eminent German theologian and conservative enforcer of Roman Catholic Church doctrine who broke with almost 600 years of tradition by resigning and then living for nearly a decade behind Vatican walls as a retired pope still clad in white robes, died on Saturday at the age of 95, the Vatican said.

Just as Benedict’s resignation in 2013 shook the Roman Catholic church to its core, his death again put the institution in little-charted territory.

A pope’s death customarily sets in a motion a conclave to choose a new leader of the church, but Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, was named when Benedict stepped down. It was Francis who on Wednesday announced the news of Benedict’s final decline to the world.

Now, after a life dedicated to maintaining order and tradition in the church, Benedict in death has put it into a moment of uncertainty, with questions about how and in what capacity he will be mourned, and whether a living pope will preside over the funeral of a deceased one.

Whatever ceremonies the Vatican ultimately decides on, the loss of Benedict will be particularly hard felt by church conservatives.

Even before his election as pope on April 19, 2005, his supporters saw him as their intellectual and spiritual north star, a leader who, as a powerful Vatican official, upheld church doctrine in the face of growing secularism and pressure to change to get more people into the pews.

Benedict’s critics are more likely to remember him as a crusher of dissent who did far too little to address sexual abuse in the church, stumbled in some of his public declarations and lacked the charisma of his predecessor, John Paul II.

Francis fired or demoted many of Benedict’s appointees, redirected the church’s priorities and adjusted its emphasis from setting and keeping boundaries to pastoral inclusivity.

Still, in some regards, Francis built on Benedict’s legacy, especially in addressing the child sexual abuse crisis. Benedict was the first pope to meet with victims, and he apologized for the abuse that was allowed to fester under John Paul II. He excoriated the “filth” in the church and excommunicated some offending priests.

But abuse survivors and their advocates accused Benedict of having failed to go far enough in punishing several priests as a bishop in Germany, and in his handling of accusations against some priests as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office. He was also criticized as doing little to hold the hierarchy accountable for shielding — and so facilitating — child sexual abuse.

Benedict, born Joseph Alois Ratzinger, was ordained a priest in 1951, and named archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977, the same year that he became a cardinal. Four years later, Pope John Paul II summoned Cardinal Ratzinger to Rome, where he became the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office responsible for defending church orthodoxy, one of the Vatican’s most important positions.

He led the office for nearly 25 years.

After John Paul II died in 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger was chosen as his successor. He took the name of a sixth-century monk, Benedict of Nurcia, who had founded monasteries and the Benedictine order, helping spread Christianity in Europe. The new pope, as Benedict XVI, would seek to re-evangelize a Europe that was struggling to maintain its faith.

Ultimately, Pope Benedict bowed out during a period of scandals and immense pressures. He cited his declining health, both “of mind and body.” He had said that he resigned freely, and “for the good of the church.”

That resignation — the first by a pontiff since 1415 — is likely to be remembered as his most defining act.

He lived in retirement in a monastery on the Vatican grounds, mostly stepping back from public life and dedicating himself to prayer and meditation. Francis visited him and called him “a wise grandfather in the home,” even as his supporters sought — and failed — to make him an alternative power center.

Benedict’s body will be in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday ‘to be greeted by the faithful.’

St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. It is likely that Pope Benedict will be buried in the crypt beneath the church.

St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. It is likely that Pope Benedict will be buried in the crypt beneath the church.Credit…Andrew Medichini/Associated Press
St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. It is likely that Pope Benedict will be buried in the crypt beneath the church.

ROME — When Queen Elizabeth II of Britain died in September, a meticulously choreographed process known as Operation London Bridge was set in motion for the hours and days to follow. Papal deaths also follow a strict protocol: The pope’s study and bedroom are closed off, the pope’s Fisherman’s Ring — the seal used for papal documents — is destroyed, and various funeral rites are enacted.

But with the death of Benedict, who resigned from the papacy in 2013 and since then held the title of pope emeritus, it was unclear exactly what full protocol the Vatican would use.

The Vatican said on Saturday that he would be in St. Peter’s Basilica “to be greeted by the faithful.” The Vatican said that further information would be provided as soon as possible.

Because there are no precedents in modern time, said Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, a historian of the papacy, “the question is complicated.” Benedict was not the first pope to retire, he noted, but he chose to retain some trappings tied to the papacy, including dressing in white.

By contrast, Celestine V, who resigned in 1294, sought to live like a monk. He was instead imprisoned by Pope Boniface VIII and was not given the funeral of a pope when he died in 1296.

Gregory XII, the last pope to resign before Benedict, reverted to being a cardinal when he stepped down in 1415. When he died two years later, his funeral followed the rite used for cardinals, Mr. Paravicini Bagliani said.

Normally, cardinals gather for papal funerals to mourn, but also to participate in the election of a successor. Their presence in Rome is a “sign that even though a pope has died, the church continues,” Mr. Paravicini Bagliani explained.

“Clearly that’s not an issue in this case,” he said, but added that cardinals would likely be present “as mourners.”

He thought it was likely that some rituals, like the nine days of Masses held after a pope dies, might be modified.

It is likely that Benedict will be buried alongside his 148 predecessors who lie in the crypt beneath St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, but the Vatican had not specified the burial site.

It was unclear whether Pope Francis would celebrate the funeral Mass, which is usually celebrated by the dean of the College of Cardinals. As such, Benedict celebrated the funeral of John Paul II in 2005. Currently, the dean is Giovanni Battista Re, an 88-year-old Italian cardinal.




Peter N. Djangmah is a multifaceted individual with a passion for education, entrepreneurship, and blogging. With a firm belief in the power of digital education and science, I am affectionately known as the Private Minister of Information. Connect with me
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