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Ex-Pope Benedict XVI, a Staunch Anti-LGBTQ+ Pontiff, Dies at 95

Pope Benedict XVI
Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images

The Pope Emeritus, who retired from the papacy in 2013, said marriage equality was the product of the Antichrist.


Former pope Benedict XVI died at the age of 95 at a monastery in Vatican City on Saturday. He had been in ill health, according to Vatican officials. Known as a conservative theologian, he left a negative legacy on LGBTQ+ rights and called homosexuality "an intrinsic moral evil."

Benedict retired from the papacy in 2013 -- the first to do so in about 600 years. He was elected to the position in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II. His retirement gave way to the rise of Pope Francis, who has been warmer to LGBTQ+ people and has repeatedly called for some inclusion of queer people in the Catholic Church.

"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," the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See Matteo Bruni said, reports CNN.

The ex-pope's funeral will be held in St. Peter's Square on Thursday, while his body will lie in state at St. Peter's Basilica beginning Monday.

Benedict had been ill for several days.

"I want to ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict who sustains the Church in his silence. He is very sick. We ask the Lord to console and sustain him in this witness of love for the Church to the very end," Francis said Wednesday.

When he retired in 2013, he said he'd be "hidden" from he world in his retirement. However, he continued to speak on religious matters added to some tensions in the Catholic Church.

Even before becoming pope, Benedict had been a powerful leader in the church. He was born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927. Benedict was briefly part of Hitler's Youth. His family detested the Nazis, according to CNN. He became a priest in 1951.

In 1977 he was made a cardinal and later became the chief theological adviser to John Paul II.

Experts say that his time leading the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the Vatican office that oversees "the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world," according to the Vatican, will be better remembered than his time as pope, according to CNN.

The outlet notes he was nicknamed "Cardinal No" after his efforts to stop the liberalization of the Church, including challenges to Catholic teachings on homosexuality and ordaining women as priests.

The Roman Catholic Church has long condemned same-sex sexual relationships; the church preaches that gay and lesbian Catholics should remain celibate. But Benedict, both as pope and as a cardinal under his given name, Joseph Ratzinger, was particularly harsh in his anti-LGBT rhetoric.

Before becoming pontiff he used his influence to silence an LGBTQ-supportive nun and priest over what he said was their refusal to back the "Church's teaching regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts," CNN reports. He banned them from working with queer people.

Related: New Pope on Homosexuality: "Intrinsic Moral Evil"

In 1986, then-Cardinal Ratzinger published a document titled "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons." The letter warns of "deceitful propaganda" from pro-homosexual groups. It instructs bishops not to accept groups that "seek to undermine the teaching of the church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely." The letter refers to homosexuality as an "intrinsic moral evil."

His antigay dogma led many Catholic churches to close their doors to the LGBTQ+ Catholic group Dignity.

Six years later, the future pope also wrote a letter to the U.S. bishops supporting legal discrimination against gays in certain areas like adoption rights, the hiring of LGBTQ+ people as teachers or coaches, and the prohibition of queer people in the military. In such situations, Benedict wrote, "It is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account."

In 2012, Benedict said marriage equality would "harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society." In his Christmas homily of that year, he denounced transgender and gender-nonconforming people, saying the concept of being transgender was a denial of God.

The Pope Emeritus called same-sex marriage a product of the Antichrist and said society has become so hostile to Christian doctrine that it will shun anyone who opposes equal marriage rights in 2020.

The quote is from an interview Benedict did with Seewald, his frequent collaborator, in 2018. "One hundred years ago, everybody would have considered it to be absurd to speak of a homosexual marriage. Today, one is being excommunicated by society if one opposes it," he said, according to a translation published in PinkNewsat the time.

Also condemning abortion and assisted reproduction, Benedict added, "The fear of this spiritual power of the Antichrist is then only more than natural, and it really needs the help of prayers on the part of an entire diocese and of the Universal Church in order to resist it."

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