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Former Pope Benedict XVI dies at age 95

Pope Benedict

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has died at the age of 95, the Vatican announced.

His death on Saturday came days after Pope Francis had asked for prayers for his predecessor, saying he was “very sick”.

The Holy See Press Office said Benedict, the first German pope in 1,000 years, died at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, which he had chosen as his residence after resigning in 2013.

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His body would lie in state from Monday in Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican said.

Francis will lead the funeral, to be held in St Peter’s Square on January 5. The ceremony is set to start at 9:30 am (0830 GMT).

The Vatican has been vague about what ailed Benedict, saying only that his worsening health was due to his advanced age.

For nearly 25 years, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict was the powerful head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, then known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

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Conservatives in the church have looked to the former pope as their standard bearer and some ultra-traditionalists even refused to acknowledge Francis as a legitimate pontiff.

They have criticised Francis for his more welcoming approach to members of the LGBTQ+ community and to Catholics who divorced and remarried outside the church, saying both were undermining traditional values.

Alberto Tonini, an historian at the University of Florence, told Al Jazeera that Benedict was more influential as a scholar and theologist, rather than a leader.

“He was not very comfortable speaking to a large audience or acting as a political leader. He was a thinker, a philosopher – and he maintained his (scholarly) activities during the eight years of his papacy,” Tonini said.

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