Pope Benedict XVI: his papacy and retirement

STORY: Former Pope Benedict, who died on Saturday (December 31) aged 95, was the first German pope in 1,000 years – and the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.

A more traditionalist leader, he had good relations with successor Pope Francis, considered more progressive.

But his continued presence in the Vatican following his 2013 resignation has further polarized the Church ideologically.

A piano-playing professor and formidable theologian, Benedict was by his own admission a weak leader and there were moments of crises throughout his eight-year reign.

He was challenged multiple times over the Church’s failure to root out child sexual abuse by clergy.

He repeatedly apologized, and was the first pope to take serious action against it.

But this did not halt the rapid decline of churchgoing in the West.

In another blow, Benedict's papacy was shaken by a scandal dubbed "Vatileaks" in 2012.

Leaked documents exposed infighting, dysfunction and financial corruption within the Church administration.

A 2022 a German independent report alleged that Benedict had failed to take action in four abuse cases when he was Archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982.

He acknowledged in an emotional personal letter that errors had occurred and asked for forgiveness.

However, Benedict will be best remembered for shocking the world when he announced his resignation on Feb. 11, 2013.

In his emotional farewell, he admitted to difficult periods throughout his premier.

While there were moments of “joy and light”, he said, there were moments “when the seas were rough…[and] it seemed that the Lord was sleeping.”