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The ex-head of the Catholic Church- and the first pope to retire in 600 years – has died age 95.

FORMER Pope Benedict XVI has died at the age of 95. The ex-head of the Catholic Church resigned as pontiff in February 2013 – the first pope to retire in 600 years.

A spokesman for the Holy See confirmed Benedict died on Saturday morning.

They said: “With sorrow I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, passed away today at 9.34am in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican.

“Further information will be provided as soon as possible.”

Former Pope Benedict XVI has died. Picture: Greg Wood

Former Pope Benedict XVI has died.

It comes just days after Pope Francis said his predecessor was “very sick” as he called for prayers during his final audience of the year at the Vatican.

Benedict served as the head of the Church and the sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2005 until his resignation in 2013.

After that, he lived in the Vatican.

Benedict became increasingly frail in recent years as he dedicated his post-papacy life to prayer and meditation.

Benedict resigned as pontiff in 2013

Benedict resigned as pontiff in 2013

Back in 2013, he cited his declining physical and mental health in his decision to become the first pope since 1415 to give up the job as head of the Catholic Church.

In his resignation letter, he said: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

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”.

He said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Pope Benedict. He will be remembered as one of the great theologians of the 20th century.

Benedict the first pope to retire in 600 years. Picture: Vincenzo Pinto

Benedict the first pope to retire in 600 years.

“I remember with particular affection the remarkable Papal Visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.”

“He was through and through a gentleman, through and through a scholar, through and through a pastor, through and through a man of God – close to the Lord and always his humble servant.

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

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