Thousands of mourners gathered in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican today to pay their respects to Pope Benedict XVI as he was laid to rest. Where popes usually live out the role to the end of their days, Benedict was the first pontiff in 600 years to step down as head of the Catholic Church. His successor, Argentinian Pope Francis, led the service.
Benedict XVI, who passed away on December 31, at the age of 95 and was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, resigned from the pontificate on February 28, 2013, when he was just under 86 years old. He is survived by Pope Francis, who celebrated his 86th birthday on December 17, making him the third oldest supreme pontiff in history to hold office.
As this chart shows, only two other sitting popes have reached an older age than Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio). At 93, Leo XIII was by far the oldest sitting pope. His tenure lasted for 25 years, from 1878 to 1903. The longest documented time as leader of the Church was spent by his predecessor Pius IX (1846-1878) with a tenure of more than 31 years, before he died at 85 years and nine months. It is estimated that only St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome, served as supreme pontiff for longer (about 34 years).