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BREAKING Pope Benedict dies aged 95: Ex-pontiff who became first to resign in 600 years when he stood down nine years ago passes away after long battle with illness

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ormer Pope Benedict has died aged 95, after long battle with illness and will lie in state in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

The ex-pontiff who became first to resign in 600 years when he stood down nine years ago passed away on Saturday in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican, a spokesman for the Holy See said.

‘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. Further information will be provided as soon as possible,’ the spokesman said in a written statement. 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said Benedict was ‘one of the great theologians of the 20th century‘.

‘Pope Benedict is very much in my heart and in my prayers. I give thanks to God for his ministry and leadership.’

Former Pope Benedict was the first pontiff in 600 years to resign, leaving behind a Catholic Church battered by sexual abuse scandals, mired in mismanagement and polarised between conservatives and progressives.

The Vatican said his body will lie in state from Monday in St.Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican has painstakingly elaborate rituals for what happens after a reigning pope dies but no publicly known ones for a former pope. 

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