ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Local Catholic churches have begun mourning the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died early Saturday morning after days of poor health.


Bishop Gregory Parkes of the Diocese of St. Petersburg issued a statement expressing his sorrow at the former pope’s passing.

“With sadness, we mourn the loss of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and with gratitude give thanks for his many years of service and ministry to the Church,” Parkes said. “He was a humble servant who faithfully accepted and fulfilled God’s will for his life. His theological intellect and spiritual wisdom will certainly be missed. May this humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord now rest in the peace of God’s loving and merciful arms.”

The Vatican said Benedict XVI had suffered from health issues from his “advanced age.” Prior to his death, his successor, Pope Francis, asked for prayers for the pope emeritus “to console him and to sustain him in this witness of love for the Church, until the end.”

The Diocese of St. Petersburg — which represents almost 500,000 Catholics across Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus counties — said its 75 parishes would be invited to display black bunting outside their church doors in mourning.

Churches and Catholic schools in the diocese were also permitted to display a portrait of Benedict XVI and ring their church bells in mourning. The mourning period will continue until the pope’s funeral mass in St. Peter’s Square on Jan. 5, 2023.

More information on the diocese’s plans to celebrate the life of the late pope will be released at a later time.