The controversial legacy of former Pope Benedict XVI

Former Pope Benedict XVI left behind a unique and complex legacy in the history of the Catholic Church.

The controversial legacy of former Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, appears on a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, April 19, 2005. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano-Arturo Mari/File Photo

The backstory: Former Pope Benedict XVI left behind a unique and complex legacy in the history of the Catholic Church. During his almost eight-year leadership, he ran into crisis after crisis, most notably widespread sexual abuse allegations against priests and accusations of coverups and inaction by bishops and church authorities. Later, he became the first pope in 600 years to resign voluntarily. In general, though, he was known for his philosophical writings on the life of Jesus Christ and his efforts to maintain traditional Catholic values on issues like homosexuality, marriage for priests and the role of women in the church.

More recently: In 2013, when Benedict said he was resigning because of his declining health, he was succeeded by Pope Francis. Pope Benedict then took on the title of pope emeritus and lived in retirement on the Vatican grounds.

The development: Pope Benedict XVI, who served as pope from 2005 to 2013, passed away on Saturday at the age of 95. The public will have the opportunity to pay their respects to him from January 2, with his funeral service held on January 5, led by Pope Francis.

Key comments:

"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 on Twitter.

"I also recall his constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill to all people, and to strengthen the relationship between the global Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church," said the UK's King Charles III on the news of Benedict XVI's death.

"In many ways [the abuse scandal] marked his papacy, that period of eight years where he really led the church in confronting the reality of abuse in our history," said Archbishop Martin of Armagh and Catholic Primate of All Ireland, speaking on the child sex abuse scandal during Benedict XVI's papacy.

"We learned of his death just as we were in St. Peter's Square. A tourist guide was just telling us where Benedict lived, it feels surreal. What will happen now? This situation is unprecedented; there are no protocols to follow for what will happen now. Certainly it is an unprecedented historical moment," said Barbara Bernadas, a tourist from Barcelona who went to St. Peter's Square in Rome after the former pope's death.