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Pope Benedict, who shocked the world by resigning, dies at 95

Pope Benedict, who shocked the world by resigning, dies at 95
Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, waves from a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, April 19, 2005.

Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to retire in six centuries, died early Saturday at the age of 95. Benedict surprised the world in 2013 by announcing he was stepping down from the papacy due to his advanced age. The first German pope in 1,000 years, Benedict took up the mantle of his close friend and predecessor, Pope John Paul II, and is credited with starting to reform Vatican finances and disciplining priests in Latin America who promoted Marxist ideology. Along the way, his strict adherence to church doctrine earned him the nickname “God’s Rottweiler.” Benedict’s papacy was plagued by global clerical sexual misconduct charges, and he charted a course for stricter discipline and defrocking of priests. But he’s also remembered for the 2012 “Vatileaks” controversy in which his brother leaked secret files revealing corruption and infighting at the Vatican. His reputation was further damaged by this year’s Munich diocese report, which alleged he mishandled sexual abuse allegations when he was an archbishop decades ago, prompting him to publicly apologize. Pope Benedict wasn’t always great at interfaith work. He managed to upset Muslims by suggesting Islam was inherently violent, and Jews by lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop. While leaving a mixed legacy, Benedict will perhaps be remembered most for making a daring choice to resign when he felt he could no longer fully serve the papacy.

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