The former Pope died on Saturday, Dec, 31, at the age of 95.
According to his longtime secretary, the Pope’s final words were, “Lord, I love you.”
Archbishop Georg Gaenswein quoted a nurse who was helping the 95-year-old and heard the words shortly before his death on New Year’s Eve.
The nurse recalled Benedict making the short statement at about 3 a.m. before he died later that morning, Gaenswein said.
“Benedict XVI, with a faint voice but in a very distinct way, said in Italian, ‘Lord, I love you,’” Gaenswein told the Vatican’s official media Sunday, Jan. 1.
“I wasn’t there in that moment, but the nurse a little later recounted it. They were his last comprehensible words because afterward, he wasn’t able to express himself anymore.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 19 April 2005 until his resignation on 28 February 2013.
Benedict’s election as pope occurred in the 2005 papal conclave that followed the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict chose to be known as “Pope emeritus” upon his resignation, and he retained this title until his death in 2022.
Ordained as a priest in 1951 in his native Bavaria, Ratzinger embarked on an academic career and established himself as a highly regarded theologian by the late 1950s. He was appointed a full professor in 1958 at the age of 31.
After a long career as a professor of theology at several German universities, he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977, an unusual promotion for someone with little pastoral experience.
In 1981, he was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman Curia. From 2002 until he was elected pope, he was also Dean of the College of Cardinals.
Before becoming pope, he was “a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century”; he had an influence “second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions” as one of John Paul II’s closest confidants.