Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned the papacy in 2013, has died at the age of 95, the Vatican announced on Saturday. Pope Benedict was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in Bavaria, and was elected pope in April of 2005, succeeding St. Pope John Paul II.
“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,” said the Vatican press office director, Matteo Bruni. He added that Pope Benedict received the sacrament of anointing of the sick on December 28. His funeral Mass will be held on January 5 in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Benedict continuously reminded Catholics, and the rest of the world, about the value of human life from the moment of fertilization until natural death. In 2007, he warned pro-abortion Catholic politicians that they risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive Communion, siding with Mexican Catholic leaders who had threatened to excommunicate pro-abortion parliamentarians who had voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City. He said, “Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon (church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ.”
He added, “Selfishness and fear are at the root of [pro-abortion] legislation. We in the Church have a great struggle to defend life … life is a gift not a threat.”
On abortion, Pope Benedict also said, “God’s love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant still in his or her mother’s womb and the child or young person, or the adult and the elderly person. God does not distinguish between them because he sees an impression of his own image and likeness (Gn 1:26) in each one.”
In his address at the Meeting with the Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps in Hofburg, Vienna, in 2007, he said, “The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right – it is the very opposite. It is ‘a deep wound in society.'”
He also explained, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. There may be legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not…. with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
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In his address at a Meeting on Family and Life Issues in Latin America in 2005, he said, “Children truly are the family’s greatest treasure and most precious good. Consequently, everyone must be helped to become aware of the intrinsic evil of the crime of abortion. In attacking human life in its very first stages, it is also an aggression against society itself. Politicians and legislators, therefore, as servants of the common good, are duty bound to defend the fundamental right to life, the fruit of God’s love.“
Pope Benedict also spoke about embryonic research. In a Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace in 2007, he said, “As far as the right to life is concerned, we must denounce its widespread violation in our society… Abortion and embryonic experimentation constitute a direct denial of that attitude of acceptance of others which is indispensable for establishing lasting relationships of peace.”
And in his Address to the Participants in the Pontifical Academy for Life Symposium on “Stem Cells: What Future for Therapy?” in 2006, Pope Benedict explained, “Research [involving the destruction of human embryos]…is not truly at the service of humanity…History itself has condemned such a science in the past and will condemn it in the future, not only because it lacks the light of God but also because it lacks humanity.”
Pope Benedict also spoke out against euthanasia and assisted suicide. “More and more lonely elderly people exist in big cities, even in situations of serious illness and close to death,” he said in an Address to the Pontifical Academy for Life Congress in 2008. “In such situations, the pressure of euthanasia is felt, especially when a utilitarian vision of the person creeps in. In this regard, I take this opportunity to reaffirm once again the firm and constant ethical condemnation of every form of direct euthanasia, in accordance with the Church’s centuries-old teaching.”