Joseph Alois Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI

In the annals of papal history, Joseph Ratzinger, who has died aged 95, will be remembered principally as the first pope in 600 years to retire, rather than to die in office. Any other achievements of his eight-year pontificate as Benedict XVI – and there were a few worthy of enduring note – will ultimately be overshadowed, first by the manner of his going, and second because his papacy came between that of two controversial and larger-than-life figures, his long-time boss Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II, and Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Francis I, the self-proclaimed pope “from the ends of the earth”.

In doctrinal terms, Benedict spent his time in charge tweaking the legacy of the 27 years of the Polish pontiff. The conservative settlement that John Paul had imposed, with Cardinal Ratzinger’s able and unswerving assistance, on the great theological battles that had followed the reforming second Vatican council of the 1960s remained fundamentally undisturbed during Benedict’s reign. The victories already achieved in the last decades of the 20th century over more liberal Catholic voices over questions of sexual morality, clerical celibacy, the place of women and religious freedom were, as far as Benedict was concerned, secure. His pontificate, then, is best seen as an extended postscript to the one that had gone before.

But that is not the whole picture. There are three principal ways in which it differed. First, Benedict was not by inclination so dominant or overbearing a character as John Paul. He was able to break new ground in the modern history of the papacy by occasionally uttering the world “sorry”: sorry for allowing a Holocaust-denier, the British-born priest Richard Williamson, back into the fold in 2009, an error made – as Benedict humbly admitted in a letter to the world’s Catholic bishops – because he and those around him in the Vatican had not been sufficiently up to speed with modern means of communication to check the internet and see Williamson’s offending remarks. Sorry, too, for any offence caused by a 2006 lecture at Regensburg University in Germany in which Benedict quoted disparaging remarks about the Prophet Muhammad; and sorry, repeatedly, to the world and to victims for the crimes of paedophile priests.

This final apology was part of the second way in which Benedict’s papacy deserves to be seen as distinctive. He was the first pope to look the abuse scandal in the eye and attempt to tackle it. He may have made only a start, but his predecessor had simply swept it under the carpet and even given sanctuary to known abusers. Benedict withdrew that protection and promised a thorough review that would stop such a betrayal happening again. Delivery of the promise, though, was patchy.

His third claim to be his own man came when he surprised even those close to him in February 2013 by resigning, on the grounds that he was simply too old and too ill to carry the burdens of leading a global church of 1.2 billion. Hardly a revolutionary thing for an 85-year-old man to say, you might think, but it has almost always been the tradition of popes to die in office, emphasising that theirs was a God-given job and therefore one that only God could release them from by calling them back to him.

Benedict’s abrupt departure created short-, medium- and long-term problems for the Catholic church. The cardinal electors negotiated the first of these challenges better than expected. Their choice of a successor, Cardinal Bergoglio, from Argentina, was made quickly and decisively, and sent out a powerful signal to the world that Catholicism had recognised the need for a new approach.

The medium-term problem was the fact that there were suddenly not one but two popes. Part of the mystique of the office is that it elevates just one man above every other member of the church, and indeed the main argument long used against papal resignations, even when the incumbent was so physically or mentally frail that they could not function as a leader, was that this unique source of authority would be divided in an organisation that runs on hierarchical principles. If you are going to have an absolute monarch, you cannot have two pretenders.

On this occasion there was just one uncomfortable incident, in January 2020, when, in a foreword to a book by a deeply traditionalist colleague, Benedict warned Francis not to relax rules on priestly celibacy. When it made headlines, Benedict immediately asked that his name be removed from the text. Some believed the offending passage had been added by those who looked after him.

Not one pope but two: Joseph Ratzinger, right, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with his successor, Pope Francis, at the Vatican in 2016.
Not one pope but two: Joseph Ratzinger, right, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with his successor, Pope Francis, at the Vatican in 2016. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

Whether or not you regard the prospect of subsequent popes resigning when they reach a certain age as a long-term problem depends on your view of the papal office. Resignations sit uneasily with the traditional belief that the pope is a quasi-divine figure, with a hotline to heaven. For all his theological and doctrinal conservatism, and his delight in the trappings of his ancient office, Benedict clearly did not.

Born in the village of Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Joseph was the third child of three and second son of a former hotel cook, Maria (nee Peintner) and a police commissioner, also Joseph, both devout Catholics. His childhood was unusual because of the extraordinary piety of the family, which separated him from his contemporaries. There was never, it seems, a time when young Joseph did not want to be a priest.

His father’s opposition to the Nazis is reported to have curtailed his police career. A lasting memory for Joseph was, as a boy, seeing Nazi supporters beat up his local parish priest in Traunstein, near the Austrian border. On another occasion, in 1941, a younger cousin who had Down’s syndrome was taken away by Nazi officials under their eugenics programme to perish with many others.

Membership of the Hitler Youth was compulsory for the two Ratzinger boys. Like other 16-year-olds, Joseph was called up in 1943, serving first with an anti-aircraft battery in Munich and then with an infantry unit on the Hungarian border, before finding himself for six weeks in an American prisoner of war camp. The end of the war meant he could resume his studies for the priesthood and he was ordained in 1951, on the same day as his elder brother, Georg.

Joseph Ratzinger, right, was ordained for the priesthood in Freising, Bavaria, in 1951, on the same day as his brother, Georg.
Joseph Ratzinger, right, was ordained for the priesthood in Freising, Bavaria, in 1951, on the same day as his brother, Georg. Photograph: Erzbistum/EPA

His wartime record was briefly a matter of controversy when he was elected pope, but his detractors struggled to make charges of wrongdoing stick. It is true, though, that in his 1997 memoir of childhood, Milestones, Ratzinger surprisingly made no reference to the suffering of the Jews under the Nazis, while labouring the trials and tribulations of the Catholic church in the same period. He also appears to have chosen the path of least resistance – in stark contrast to John Paul II who, as a young man in Poland, worked with the local resistance to spirit away Jews to safety.

Ratzinger followed an academic path, lecturing first at Munich University from 1957, becoming a professor at Bonn in 1959, and in 1963 moving to Münster University and in 1966 to Tübingen. Such mobility is unusual in German academia and a sign perhaps that Ratzinger was not always an easy or accepting colleague.

While at Bonn, he was spotted by Cardinal Josef Frings, archbishop of Cologne, and it was as a theological adviser to Frings, a noted moderniser, that he attended the second Vatican council in the early 1960s. Ratzinger became one of a prominent group of young, progressive theologians and subsequently, as a contributor to the magazine Concilium, championed freedom of theological inquiry.

His personal Road to Damascus came in 1968 at Tübingen, which had embraced the Europe-wide outbreak of student unrest of that period. It profoundly disturbed Ratzinger and caused him to decamp the following year for the more traditionally minded Regensburg, and, more significantly, prompted a wholesale re-evaluation of his commitment to the reform movement in the church.

In Catholic circles, he began to voice his disillusion at the effects of the modernisation ushered in by the council, and at the constant demand for change and innovation. He started to advocate a reinvigorated central church government to hold the line against liberals, and to defend the traditions of Catholicism that he came to see increasingly as its strength. As a symbol of this change of heart, in 1972 Ratzinger defected from Concilium to the group of conservative-minded theologians who were founding a rival journal, Communio.

The need to halt the reform process was fast becoming mainstream thought in the European Catholic church. When, in 1977, Ratzinger was appointed by the Vatican as cardinal archbishop of Munich, he used his new platform to attack progressive theologians, such as his former academic colleague and friend the Swiss theologian Father Hans Küng.

Such a stance chimed well with the incoming regime of Karol Wojtyla, elected in 1978 as Pope John Paul II. He was another second Vatican council figure who was also now wary of what it had set in train. In 1981, Ratzinger was named head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most senior positions in the Roman curia. He worked closely and harmoniously with John Paul, notably to rein in the radical liberation theologians of Latin America, whom both suspected of importing Marxist thought into Catholicism by the back door, and to silence dissenters such as the distinguished American scholar Father Charles Curran, who had publicly questioned official teaching on sexual morality. The freedom to explore, which Ratzinger had once demanded for theologians, was now being rapidly eroded by his own hand.

Cardinal Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich, in 1982, bids farewell to the city to become head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.
Cardinal Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich, in 1982, bidding farewell to the city to become head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican. Photograph: Diether Endlicher/AP

It was often easier for otherwise loyal Catholics concerned by the draconian actions of the Vatican in regard to popular, liberal theologians to blame Ratzinger rather than John Paul II. The Pope managed to evade any sort of categorisation within his lifetime, not least by dint of his personal charisma, while, as his right-hand man, the apparently dour, inflexible Ratzinger was a more convenient target. But, as pope, Benedict largely avoided such targeting of individuals. The attack on dissidents was, it seems, his master’s bidding.

As John Paul’s health failed, Ratzinger stepped into his shoes ever more to become prominent as the spokesman for Catholic orthodoxy, fearless in attacking those aspects of secular culture that he saw as wrong-headed. In 2003, for example, he described civil partnerships for same-sex couples as “the legislation of evil”.

He talked often of his desire to return to the Bavarian village of Pentling, near Regensburg, to take up again his theological writings. If he could have chosen a way to spend his time, it would have been reading, researching and writing about Catholicism. To that end, he tried three times to retire after suffering a stroke and then heart complications – which eventually required him to have a pacemaker fitted – but he was persuaded by a now physically needy John Paul to stay at his side.

When the Polish pontiff died in April 2005 after a prolonged and very public battle with Parkinson’s disease, it fell to Ratzinger, as dean of the College of Cardinals, to lead the tributes, organise the funeral and open the conclave to choose a new pope. He performed all three duties impeccably, so that to his fellow cardinals he suddenly appeared the obvious candidate, though he had not been regarded as the frontrunner beforehand.

No cardinal will ever admit to wanting to be pope, but, had he ever harboured hopes, Ratzinger must surely have concluded, with his 78th birthday almost upon him, that his moment had passed. As well as his age and indifferent health, there was a chorus of demands from many influential voices in the worldwide Catholic church for a radical change of direction. And yet, against the predictions of most commentators, it was Benedict who emerged from the Sistine Chapel after just two days of voting (which counts as quick in Catholic terms) as the oldest incoming pope since Clement XII in 1730 and only the second non-Italian in almost half a millennium.

Pope Benedict XVI waves from a balcony of St Peter’s Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, 19 April 2005.
Pope Benedict XVI waving from a balcony of St Peter’s Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, 19 April 2005. Photograph: Arturo Mari/AFP/Getty Images

This reluctant but dutiful figure was undeniably chosen by his fellow cardinal electors as the continuity candidate. They were not ready, yet, to listen to the resurgent chorus of demand for reform. Many also saw him as a caretaker, the epitome of steady-as-she-goes in Catholicism. And that was, more or less, what happened.

Yet the cardinals may have miscalculated over the true personality of Joseph Ratzinger. In 2005, he was largely seen through the filter of his long, loyal service as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – or enforcer of theological orthodoxy – under John Paul. Yet thereafter, as leader of the church, he was a man who knew his own mind and felt little compunction to consult with even his closest advisers. Once in sole charge, he was determined to do things his own distinctive way.

On a highly successful trip to Britain in the autumn of 2010, for example, he smiled modestly but winningly at the waiting cameras, reached out of the window to kiss innumerable babies’ heads, and wooed an initially sceptical local church and wider public opinion. Benedict even appeared quietly to enjoy the focus finally being on him, indulging during other visits in the occasional bout of dressing up in long-discarded items from the wardrobes of medieval popes such as the camauro, a red bonnet trimmed with white fur. He may not have had charisma, like his predecessor, the former actor John Paul II, but he undeniably had charm.

That was his style as pope. What about his substance? That is harder to define, or discern. Benedict began with some eye-catching gestures that appeared calculated to emphasise that he was his own man. In September 2005, soon after his election, he spent four hours in discussion with his former friend Küng. Under John Paul II, Küng had been banned from teaching in Catholic universities. Yet at the end of their meeting, Benedict put out a statement praising Küng’s work on dialogue between religions. His guest remained to be convinced. “His stances on church policy,” Küng remarked, “are not my own.”

Benedict was also rather better than John Paul II at giving the impression of listening and consulting. Some spoke of him having a “big tent” approach to the church, wanting to restore harmony to what had become a fractured and fractious world Catholic family. His decision in 2007 to relax restrictions on the use of the Tridentine Rite, a 16th-century form of the mass that had been largely withdrawn, to the distress of many elderly and traditionally minded Catholics in the late 1960s, was another aspect of the same all-inclusive approach (though his move was later reversed by Pope Francis).

Pope Benedict XVI inspects a guard of honour at Edinburgh airport as he arrives for a four-day state visit to Britain in September 2010.
Pope Benedict XVI inspecting a guard of honour at Edinburgh airport as he arrives for a four-day state visit to Britain in September 2010. Photograph: Reuters

As he offered these concessions, Benedict became less “God’s Rottweiler”, a tag given to him in his days at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and more a German shepherd, corralling his far-flung flock so as to protect them from the wicked secular world. Yet, as Küng probably had realised, for all the elaborate show of listening, in reality Benedict’s mind was already made up.

This became more evident as his papacy progressed. In those first years he was successful in disarming some liberal Catholics, who had greeted his election with near despair, while disappointing more traditionalist voices who had seen him as their man, likely to clamp down further on what they regarded as modern heresies.

In November 2005, he delighted conservatives by producing guidelines on excluding men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” from entering the priesthood. Studies carried out in the US suggest that as many as a third of Catholic priests are gay, despite their church teaching that homosexuality is, in the words of a letter addressed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1986 to Catholic bishops, “a strong tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil”.

But the Vatican then did nothing whatsoever to enforce Benedict’s 2005 ruling. Where’s the strategy, lamented the influential Father Richard John Neuhaus, academic and editor of First Things, an ultra-conservative American publication that had been one of the few pushing for a Ratzinger papacy. Neuhaus confessed to his own “palpable uneasiness” at the way Benedict was conducting himself.

That impatience only deepened when, for Christmas 2005, Benedict produced his first encyclical – or teaching document – which, by tradition, sets the tone for a papacy. The encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (Latin for “God Is Love”), managed in accessible and almost poetic language to extol love without adding any of the familiar Catholic strictures about the “proper” context of marriage, heterosexuality and procreation. “Sex, please, we’re Catholics” was the considered response to the document of the influential weekly the Tablet. With hindsight, however, though inclusive and attractive, Deus Caritas Est did not advance one jot the debate within Catholicism about sexual ethics. Again, Benedict was signalling he was listening, when in fact he was not.

The first three years of his papacy saw Benedict continuing to confound his critics and attract broadly positive if muted reviews. He never tried to revive his predecessor’s travelling mission, but chose instead, as befitted a man fast approaching his 80th birthday, to concentrate his energy on a smaller number of carefully chosen pastoral visits to Catholic communities mainly in Europe, the focus of another hallmark of his papacy, his crusade against the tide of secularism which he believed was destroying the continent.

Pope Benedict XVI with Tony Blair, the outgoing British prime minister, for a private meeting at the Vatican in June 2007.
Pope Benedict XVI with Tony Blair, the outgoing British prime minister, for a private meeting at the Vatican in June 2007. Photograph: Getty Images

He managed, for the most part, to restore calm to Catholic-Muslim relations two months after his controversial Regensburg lecture, when he visited Turkey. There had been fears about demonstrations and even attempts on his life, but Benedict showed great diplomatic aplomb and presence as, in a last-minute addition to his programme, he joined Muslim clerics in silent prayer in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. This was only the second time a pope had entered a mosque.

Others, though, were not so easily assuaged. In September 2000, when John Paul was already seriously incapacitated, the Vatican had issued a document, Dominus Iesus, widely credited as being written by Ratzinger. It described all other religions as “gravely deficient” compared with Catholicism. Even as pope, Benedict retained the habit – developed during his long years in academia and the unworldly environment of church bureaucracy – of stating baldly what he believed to be the core truth of the superiority of Catholic teaching and tradition, regardless of the hurt it might cause to other churches and those from other faiths.

If he did learn from 2005 onwards to exercise a little more tact – as seen during his visit to Turkey – there was always the lingering suspicion that he was just being polite, and that his thinking had not really changed. He was undoubtedly sincere about wanting to foster better relationships with other churches and faiths, notably reaching out to Lutherans in his native Germany, but never to the point where he was prepared to – in his terms – compromise Catholic doctrine.

And, even as a generally conciliatory pope, he could still on occasion be very high-handed with other religious traditions. A good example was his haste and lack of tact, in October 2009, in offering to those Anglicans who could not bear to be governed by female bishops special terms for conversion to Catholicism. It was left to a clearly uncomfortable archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and his equally uneasy Catholic counterpart in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, to attempt to smooth ecumenical waters when they appeared at a press conference in the wake of Benedict’s out-of-the-blue announcement. Their demeanour made plain that neither had been properly consulted on the pope’s offer to dissident Anglicans, and that neither welcomed it.

The limitations of the team surrounding the pope were exposed by the resurgence of the paedophile priest scandal in 2009. Father Federico Lombardi, head of the papal press office, tried unsuccessfully to shift the focus onto an overzealous media.

Benedict, to his credit, did not try to bury his head in the sand over the scandal. When details had first emerged in the late 1980s in the US and Canada, some reports ended up on the desk of Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Later, it was alleged that he had failed to acknowledge them, but the cardinal archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, presented a different picture – of Ratzinger wanting to set up full investigations into accusations against a number of senior clerics – including Schönborn’s own predecessor, Cardinal Hans Groër, later exposed as a paedophile – but being blocked by other senior figures around the now grievously ailing John Paul II, notably the secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

By 2001, the reports of abuse and cover-up had grown so serious and so widespread that Ratzinger was placed in charge of co-ordinating the church’s response. His first act was to demand that every accusation be reported to him – in an effort to stop local bishops sweeping reports of abuse under the carpet, paying off victims with out-of-court settlements that bought their silence, and then reassigning the culprits to new parishes where they could carry on preying on the young. However, John Paul’s inner circle continued to limit Ratzinger’s ability to act in his new role.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger with Pope John Paul II during mass in St Peter’s Basilica, in 2002.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger with Pope John Paul II during mass in St Peter’s Basilica, in 2002. Photograph: Pier Paolo Cito/AP

One of the most notorious cases was that of the Mexican founder of the Legion of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel. A close friend of John Paul and Sodano, Maciel was accused of sexually assaulting youngsters in his order, and of having fathered children. Ratzinger pressed for him to be removed as head of the Legion, but was blocked. It was only when he became pope that he was able to take decisive action, ordering Maciel in 2006 to restrict himself to a life of prayer. The priest, who died in 2008, was not, however, forced to face his accusers in court.

It is an example of how Benedict went further than before in tackling the abuse scandal, but not far enough. In March 2009, he sent an unprecedented personal letter of apology to the Catholic church in Ireland after a new set of revelations about the scale of abuse there. “You have suffered grievously,” he said to Irish victims, “and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.”

His efforts, though sustained, were insufficient in their scope. There remained a tendency – clearly expressed in his letter to the Irish – to lay the blame on the local bishops and therefore to distance the Vatican from any responsibility. In such a centralised, hierarchical structure as world Catholicism, the buck should always end up in Rome.

Benedict was equally reluctant as pope to move decisively against those senior churchmen accused of complicity in the cover-up, including the disgraced archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, who retained a post in the Vatican, and the Irish primate, Cardinal Seán Brady, who refused to resign after it was revealed he had attended, as a young priest, a meeting where two young victims of abuse took vows of silence about their attacker, a priest who went on to rape other youngsters.

Try as he undoubtedly did, with sincerity and anguish, Benedict was perhaps too old and too set in the ways of the church he had grown up with to contemplate more radical change. And that judgment can extend to the whole of his papacy. On many doctrinal matters, he had no desire to be a reformer, but even where he clearly acknowledged the need for change, new thinking and new initiatives, too often he simply failed to deliver.

An unattractive court of ultra-traditionalists gathered around him in retirement, when he lived in the Vatican as pope emeritus. They tried to trade on his authority to derail the reforms that Pope Francis quickly introduced once in office to tackle the problems Benedict could not quite face. But the two popes remained on good terms, while the abundant evidence of Benedict’s physical and intellectual decline in those last years made it impossible for those who tried to set him up an alternative pope in the church to gain any real traction.

Joseph Alois Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, born 16 April 1927; died 31 December 2022

Courtesy of the Guardian Newspaper

Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento)

Pelé, who has died aged 82 after suffering from cancer, is widely regarded as the greatest footballer the game has ever seen. He was the only player to have won the World Cup three times, and perhaps the most remarkable aspect of his long career was that he reached his apotheosis so early, and on the world’s biggest stage. He was 17 when he played for Brazil in the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden, scoring six goals in their last three games – the winner in the quarter-final, a hat-trick in the semi-final and two in the final – his confidence and stature growing palpably with every game.

Almost two decades later he came out of retirement and made the almost unthinkable decision of signing for New York Cosmos. For all its wealth, the US was then a pauper of the football world, and it was Pelé who helped introduce Americans to “soccer”. His first game was televised in 22 countries, and the pitch, more dirt than grass, had to be spray-painted green for the watching world.

Pelé’s fame began to grow almost from the moment he made his dramatic entrance in the World Cup as the youngest footballer to play in the tournament (and still the youngest to have scored a hat-trick, or to have appeared and scored in a final). Although he missed the first two games of the 1958 tournament through injury, senior members of the Brazil squad urged the manager to play both Pelé and the right-winger Garrincha in the final group match against the Soviet Union. Unleashing these two players against the Soviets kickstarted the Brazilian campaign. Both hit the post in the first intoxicating three minutes of the match and Brazil played with a virtuosity that heralded their arrival as the dominant, irresistible force in world football.

Pelé was such hot property for Brazil that he was declared a “non-exportable national treasure”, ensuring that he remained playing in the country for two decades.
Pelé was such hot property for Brazil that he was declared a “non-exportable national treasure”, ensuring that he remained playing in the country for two decades. Photograph: Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

When Brazil reached the final and beat Sweden, the hosts, 5-2, Pelé stole the show, his two goals an illustration of the ability that set him apart from all other footballers. The first was a breathtaking piece of skill; he controlled the ball on his chest, chipped it back over his head and then ran around the flummoxed defender and volleyed it into the net. For the second, he soared above his marker before making a perfectly placed header.

Pelé was blessed with a blend of supreme athleticism, skill and tactical vision. He could run 100m in 11 seconds, shoot with either foot and outjump the tallest defenders. His sheer physicality and turn of speed were electrifying as he homed in on goal, outsprinting or simply charging through defences while managing to keep the ball under close control. But, unusually for such a prolific goalscorer, he could also be a team player. While he was still a teenager, wealthy Italian clubs attempted to lure him away from Brazil, offering a then unheard-of $1m to his club, Santos FC, for his signature. But in 1961, the Brazilian president Jânio Quadros declared Pelé a “non-exportable national treasure”, ensuring that he remained at the club for almost two decades.

He was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in the village of Três Corações in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, the son of Celeste and João Ramos. The boy was named after the inventor Thomas Edison, though his parents misspelt the name. The origin of Pelé, the nickname he picked up as a young boy, is something of a mystery, but its novelty and simplicity – easy to pronounce in any language (he complained it sounded like babytalk in Portuguese) – would add to his aura as his career advanced.

His father, known as Dondinho, was a gifted footballer and in the hope of a final shot at glory took the family to Bauru, a railway town in São Paulo state. A knee injury put an end to his sports career and the family slipped into poverty. From the age of seven, Pelé worked part-time as a shoeshine boy. Celeste was adamant her son would not follow in João’s footsteps, but by the time he was a teenager, scouts from the big clubs in Rio and São Paulo were knocking at the door.

Waldemar de Brito, a scout and former footballer who appeared in the 1934 World Cup, finally persuaded his mother to let him have a trial for Santos. De Brito took Pelé under his wing, and when they arrived in Santos, the port city for the booming industrial and coffee-producing state of São Paulo, he declared the 15-year-old was going to be “the greatest football player in the world”.

Santos was a small but ambitious provincial club when Pelé made his debut in 1956, and he was instrumental in transforming it into a national and then international force. In 1957, his first full season as a professional, in which he also won his first international cap, he was the top scorer in the São Paulo state championship. The following year the team scored 143 goals in 38 games to win the title, Pelé scoring 58 times – a record that still stands – and a remarkable 75 goals in all competitions in the calendar year, a world record that stood until 1972. By the 1960s the team was one of the most successful in the world, earning the nickname the Santásticos as they won eight more state championships, six Brazilian championships, two Copas Libertadores (South American championships) and two Intercontinental Cups.

Keen to cash in on Pelé’s box office appeal – and pay his astronomical salary – Santos embarked on a relentless schedule of exhibition matches in dozens of countries across four continents. Their star attraction was contractually obliged to play everywhere they went, so by the time Pelé appeared in his second World Cup, in Chile in 1962, he had played an exhausting 426 games and scored 488 goals in matches for club and country. He arrived with a groin injury, which flared up in Brazil’s second game and ruled him out of the rest of the tournament, though Brazil, led by an inspirational Garrincha, went on to win their second successive World Cup.

Worse followed four years later at the 1966 World Cup in England, when Bulgarian and Portuguese defenders repeatedly hacked Pelé down at the knees. He limped out of the tournament and, angered at the lack of protection from referees, vowed that he had played his last World Cup. Four years later, acutely aware of his place in history and with a point to prove, he had changed his mind. Chastened, the Brazil squad trained for the tournament for three months to deal with an increasingly physical European game and the altitude and intense heat of Mexico. Pelé was the only survivor of the victorious 1958 squad but he was joined by a new generation of gifted players, including Tostão, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gerson and his Santos teammate Carlos Alberto.

Pelé dribbles past the Italy defender Tarcisio Burgnich during the World Cup final in Mexico in 1970.
Pelé dribbling past the Italy defender Tarcisio Burgnich during the World Cup final in Mexico in 1970. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The 1970 World Cup was the first to be watched live by a global television audience. It was also the first to be broadcast in colour, and in the brilliant Mexican sunshine the gold shirts and cobalt blue shorts of Brazil dazzled the watching world. They won the tournament for the third time – beating Italy 4-1 in the final – by playing football of such imagination and thrilling execution that it is regarded as one of the high-water marks in the history of sport. Their swaggering, distinctly Brazilian futebol arte proved that it was possible to win by playing with joyful exuberance, and Pelé was the most potent symbol of this sporting celebration. After 1970 he was probably the most famous man in world sport, with only Muhammad Ali as instantly recognisable and universally idolised.

He played five more games for Brazil and continued with Santos for another four years, but declined to come out of international retirement for the 1974 World Cup. Brazil’s manager, Mario Zagallo, had lost the nucleus of his glorious 1970 team and implored Pelé to change his mind, but the player realised that, as well as being past his peak, he was a far more lucrative asset off the field.

At this point in his life, money had become more pressing than football. As the result of bad judgment and dubious advice, he twice lost his fortune and was almost made bankrupt. One reason Santos were able to keep him for so long was their willingness to bail him out, on very favourable terms, after his business collapsed.

He played his last game for the club in October 1974 but, with financial clouds still hanging over him, he came out of retirement a few months later after receiving an offer he simply could not refuse. To the astonishment of football fans, particularly in Brazil, he went to play for New York Cosmos in the fledgling North American Soccer League (NASL). They would pay him $7m for three years as a player, plus another three as a “goodwill ambassador”.

As well as a salary that would make him the highest-paid sportsman in the world, he was also tempted by the offer of a new challenge laid down by the Cosmos manager, Clive Toye, perhaps one that suited a footballer past his peak: “I told him don’t go to Italy, don’t go to Spain, all you can do is win a championship. Come to the US and you can win a country.”

Pelé at the Cannes film festival in 1981; he became an instantly recognisable and globally idolised figure.
Pelé at the Cannes film festival in 1981; he became an instantly recognisable and globally idolised figure. Photograph: Ralph Gatti/AFP/Getty Images

And so it proved: Pelé and the Cosmos were a perfect fit. The astonishing skill that had beguiled football fans in almost every country in the world was a revelation to a new American audience, and he loved the razzmatazz of the NASL – his easy charm was a gift to sports marketing men who were selling, in effect, a brand new product.

Over three seasons he scored 65 goals in 111 games for the Cosmos, and led them to the 1977 American championship. The team became a huge commercial presence and regularly sold out their 60,000-seater stadium – unthinkable before his arrival. His last game came in October 1977, an exhibition match in New York between his two clubs, Santos and Cosmos, broadcast to dozens of countries, in which he played one half for each side, and scored his last goal, his 1,283rd in 1,367 games. Those figures are remarkable in themselves, but the fact that more than 500 of those games were friendlies played all over the world is testament to his popularity and box office appeal.

When he retired for a second time, the winning smile and goodwill that had won over American sports fans became his stock in trade, and he went on to act as a highly paid roving ambassador for a number of organisations, from Fifa and the United Nations to Mastercard and Pepsi. He even headed a health campaign for erectile dysfunction awareness. Wherever he went, he was received like royalty.

Pelé at an exhibition in Brasilia in 2008 to mark the 50th anniversary of his debut in the World Cup finals.
Pelé at an exhibition in Brasilia in 2008 to mark the 50th anniversary of his debut in the World Cup finals. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Though never a member of a political party, he was appointed Brazil’s minister of sport in 1995, serving until 1998, the year the lei Pelé (Pele’s law) was passed by congress. Its noble aim was to clean up the country’s notoriously chaotic and corrupt football bodies and give greater freedom of movement to players, though the bill was watered down before and after its promulgation.

In 1999 he was named athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee (even though he had never appeared at an Olympic Games) and a year later (jointly with Diego Maradona) Fifa player of the century. He was vice-president of Santos and made honorary president of the revamped New York Cosmos in 2010. His honorary titles in many different countries included an honorary knighthood in the UK (1997).

Pelé’s first two marriages ended in divorce. In 2016 he married his third wife, Marcia Cibele Aoki. She survives him, along with two daughters, Kelly Cristina and Jennifer, and a son, Édson, from his first marriage, to Rosemeri Cholbi; twins, Joshua and Celeste, from his second marriage, to Assíria Lemos; and a daughter, Flávia Kurtz, from an earlier relationship. He did not acknowledge his daughter Sandra, from a relationship with Anizia Machado, even after she won a paternity case. They never met and she died in 2006.

Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento), footballer, born 23 October 1940; died 29 December 2022

Courtesy of the Guardian Newspaper

Eunice Nthenya Mutiso

It is with deep sorrow we announce the death of Eunice Nthenya Mutiso on 24th December 2022.

Daughter of Late John Mutiso Masila and Late Susan Kamehe Mutiso. Mother to Esther Ndinda.
Sister to Gladys Nduku, the late Francis Munyao, Justus Mwaniki, Ruth Mutuku, Elizabeth Mumbe, Moses Mutiso and Alex Masila.

Aunt to Mutua Muthama, Joan Mwende, Maxwell Muuo Munyao, Johnson Kioko Munyao, Jacob Mutiso Mwaniki, Martha Mwelu Kimani, Carol Katanu Mutuku, Winnie Mutuku, John Kyalo Mutiso, Sam Masila Moses, Tim Mwikya Moses, John Mutiso Masila, Daniel Mutisya Mash and friend to many.

The cortege will leave Machakos Funeral Home on Saturday, 31st December 2022 for burial at Ing’ethu Village, Kaliluni Sub-Location, Iveti Location, Machakos County.

2nd Timothy 4:7 — “I have fought the good fight, a have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Beatrice Njeri Mutitu

It is with humble acceptance of God’s will that we announce the passing on of Beatrice Njeri Mutitu.

Daughter of the late Thuo Kiragu and Waruguru Thuo.

Beloved wife of the late Onesmus Mutitu Kinyua.

Sister of the late Kiragu, Muriithi, Wangeci, Ngatia, Nyawira, Ngumi, Mugure, Nyokabi, Kigoi and Wanjiku.

Loving mother of Duncan Mutitu, the late Grace Nyawira, Pauline Mungai, Eunice Mutttu, Dr. Eston Mutitu, David Mutitu, James Kiragu, Alice Mutitu and Tabitha Kimani.

Mother-in-law to Margaret Mutitu, Moses Mungai, Martha Kariuki, Josephine Mutitu, Rahab Kiragu and jadiel Kimani.

Grandmother to Bernard Mutitu, Diana Mutitu, Evelyne Mutitu, Jane Nyawira, Edwin Kariuki, Kevin Kariuki, Ken Kariuki, Evelyne Kariuki, Barbra Kariuki, Horace Mutitu, Margaret Mutitu, Betty Mutitu, Anthony Mutitu, Brian Mbugua, Dennis Kiragu, Nicholas Kiragu, Rose Kiragu, Faith Kunani, Betty Kimani, Joy Kimani and Angel Kimani. G

reat-grandmother to Samitzi, Chris Junior, Brenda, Favour, Tracy, Lilt Lenny, Trevor, Liam, Natalie, Leo, Kyllian, Laura, Liam, Heavenly and Zuriel.

Family and friends are meeting today, 30th December 2022 at All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi and her home in Rurii from 5:00pm for prayers and burial preparations.

The cortege will leave J M Kariuki Memorial Hospital (Ol Kalou) on Tuesdays 3rd January 2023 at 9:00am for burial at her home in Rurii.

Mum we loved you but God loved you more!

Benson Maigua Justin Kabuiku

Sunrise: 31/03/1934 – Sunset: 27/12/2022

It is with humble acceptance of God’s will that we announce the passing on to Glory of Mr. Benson Maigua Justin.

Son of the late Justin Kabuiku and Molly Kabuiku of TumuTumu, Nyeri County.

Husband to the late Peninnah Mumbi Maigua. Father to Jane Wanjira Maigua, Priscilla Wambuci Mathenge, Patrick Kabuiku Maigua and Grace Wanjiku. Father-in-Love to Preston Mathenge and Christine Wambaa.

Grandfather to Carol and Winslow Mathenge, Anthony Maigua, Ruby Mumbi, Venessa Wanjuhi and Jessica Wanjira.

Brother to the late Enson Gakuya, Phyllis Wanjiru, Miriam Muthoni, Moffat Wachira, Milka Wangu, Alex Mbuthia, Grace Wanjiku, Wellington Muhuhe and the late Stephen Kan’guru.

The Funeral service will be held at PCEA TumuTumu Church on Tuesday January 3, 2023, starting from 10.00am. Funeral will take place at the family home in TumuTumu Nyeri County at 1.00pm.

Dad You have fought the good fight, You have finished the race, You have kept the faith. Rest in Peace till we meet again.


Teresia Wangari Mwangi (Wakafango)

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing on to glory of Mrs. Teresia Wangari Mwangi on 27/Dec/2022.

She is daughter to Late Elijah Mwangi Njuguna and Late Tabitha Wairimu Mwangi.

She is wife to Late Samuel Nguatha.

Sister to Jane Wambui of Warazo Jet, Eunice Wanjiku of Naivasha and Joseph Njoroge of Kabaru,Wamithi, Kiago, Wambui, Nyambura and Late Maina and Late Kiguru.

Daughter-in-law to Late Kabango and Wanjiku of Kasambara Farm.

Loving mother to John and Mary Mwangi, Jimmy and Joyce Kabango, Mark and Rosemary Munyua, and Jane Wanjiku U.S.A.

Doting grandmother to Late Wairimu, Derrick, Wangari, Njoki, Chantelle, Precious, Kare, Shiku, Louis, Stephen and Prodigy.

Family and friends are meeting daily at her home in Naivasha Villa view new estate, Pyramid Hotel Naivasha and at her farm Karura Gilgil.

There will be an overnight vigil mass Tuesday, 3/Jan/2023 at St. Anthony Catholic D.C.K from 5.30pm. Funeral service at St Anthony Catholic D.C.K Wednesday, 4/Jan/23 from 10.00am. She will be held at her farm Karura Gilgil.

Samuel Gachuiri Kagotho

It is with deep sorrow, humility and acceptance of Gods will that we announce the promotion to higher glory of Mr. Samuel Gachuiri Kagotho of Githiga Location, Githunguri Sub-County, Kiambu County, which occurred on 27th December 2022.

Son to the late Kagotho Gachuiri and the late Hannah Mbaire Kagotho.

Husband to the late Mary Nduta Gachuiri and the late Jane Wanjiku Gachuiri.

Brother to the late Grace Mukuhi Kimwaki, Muciku Mucuuga, Mumbi Wainaina and the late Kihinya Ndung’u.

Loving father to Charity Mbaire (USA) and the late Wainaina Gakinya, Josephin Njoki and the late Stephen Kamotho, Susan Mbaire (USA) and the late Moses Mwaura, Joseph Kagotho (Emco Diesel Services) and Ann Wangui and Ann Wanjiru, Rosemary Njeri and the late Githire, Margaret Mukuhi and Jimmy Gakere, Jeremiah Mburu (UK), Eliud Njenga and Ann Wacera. He was a grandfather and a great grandfather to many.

Friends and relatives are meeting daily at his residence in Githiga for prayers and funeral arrangements.

The cortege leaves Mukoe Funeral Home, Githunguri on Thursday, 5th January 2023 at 9:00 am for a funeral service at P.C.E.A Githiga Church at 11:00am, thereafter the burial will be at his Githiga farm near Githiga Market.

2nd Timothy 4:7; I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have kept the faith.

“Fare thee well Dad”



Sr Jeniffer Nzilani Nzembi Kiuvu

 27th December 1956 — 23rd December 2022

It is with profound sadness, that the Sisters of Mercy and the Family of the late Nesphor Kiuvu wish to announce the death of Sr. Jeniffer Nzilani (Nzembi) Kiuvu that occurred on 23rd December 2022.

Sr Jeniffer Nzibni (Nzembi) was the beloved daughter of the late Nesphor Kiuvu and late Hellen Kateve. She was a dear sister to the late Gaudencia Wanza, the late Fr George Makau, Mr & Mrs John Mutisya, Agnes Nduku (USA), and the late Salome Wausi.

She was a cherished aunt to Mr & Mrs Gerald Mutuku (Swizerland), Clementine, Brian, Erick, Maurine, Brandy and Candy.

She was a dotting grandmother to Vinnie, Valerie and Angel.

Sr. Jeniffer joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1976 and has taught in schools such as Kibwezi, Kivandini (Makueni); St Elizabeth’s, St. Anne’s (Nairobi); Ndarugti (Moro), Nuu and Mutomo (Kitui).

There will be a Requiem Mass at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital Chapel on 4th January 2023 at 3.00pm.

The cortege leaves the Mater Misericordiae Hospital Mortuary on Thursday 5th January 2023 at 7.30am for Funeral Mass at St Austin’s Catholic Church at 10.00am, ‘Thereafter, internment at Sr. Mary’s Cemetery in Msongaria.

Each day is a step we take towards eternity (Catherine McAuley).

Rest in peace Jeniffer until we meet again.

Michael (Mike) Kwerie Osodo

28th October 1979 to 24th December 2022

It is with deep sorrow and humble acceptance of Gods will that we announce the passing on to glory of Michael (Mike) Kwerie Osodo, which occurred on Saturday, 24th December 2022, at The Nairobi Hospital.

Son to Robert Osodoloo and Dorsillar Auma Osodo of Mbita, Homabay.

Michael was the beloved husband to Susan Boke and loving father to two lovely children: Maria Kwerie and Robert Kwerie.

A loving brother to Noella Achieng Osodo, the late Frederick Odera Osodo, Benedict Otieno Osodo, Policarp Massio Osodo and Mona Akinyi Osodo.

Son-in-law to Mr and Mrs Charles Kerario. Brother-in-law to Sabina Boke, Simon Kirungaru, Florence Robi, Ben Mwita, Peter Matiko, Joseph Kerario, John Matinde, Elizabeth Nyaguthii, Cynthia Njeri and Caren. Among others. He has been a cherished uncle and dear friend to marry.

Family and friends will be meeting at the deceased’s Langata residence, everyday from 5:00pm.

There will be a requiem mass at Apostle of Jesus Shrine Karen on 6th January 2023 at 10.00am.

The cortege will leave Lee Funeral Home on Saturday, 7th January 2023. The burial is set to be on 8th January 2023 at his family home in Nyahera village, Mbita Constituency, Homabay County.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” —2nd Timothy 4:7

Contributions to defray the hospital bill can be channelled through: Paybill Number:891300 : Account Number: 62414. A fundraising will be done at Thomas Barnados Langata on the 3rd January 2023 at 2.00pm. All are welcome.

Mary Moraa Mokaya

It is with humble acceptance of God’s will that the family of Elder Charles Ochieng’i Mokaya of Kisii announces the death of our Matriarch Mary Moraa Mokaya which occurred on 25th December 2022 while receiving treatment at the Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi.

Mama Mary was born in 1944 to the late Mzee Ombati Nyarangi and Mama Bisien Nyarangi at Nyarnagesa, Kisii County.

Loving wife to Elder Charles Ochieng’i Mokaya of Miriri, Nyamira County. She was the ever-caring mother to Humphrey Tirimba of the Kenya School of Government, Prof. Winstone Nyandiko of Moi University, John Ndemo of the Henry Jackson Foundation, Martin Ongau of the Office of the Auditor General, Gideon Nyamweya of the Competition Authority of Kenya, Moses Mogesi of Kabarak University, Joshua Nyarangi of GIZ, Nairobi, Mokaya Mokaya of Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia, Martha Mokeira Nyakure of AMPATH Eldoret, Stephen Morebu of Nestle Kenya Ltd and Peter Michieka of Safaricom Plc. Mother-in-law to Regina, Jane, Janet. Rose, Lucy, Lydia, Agnes, Bendetta, Naomi, Judy, Dr Nyakure, Anntlizer and Celine.

Loving grandmother to Valerie, Oakmille, Ragna, Keith, Natasha, Malia, Swift, Andizwa, Nathan, Immaculate, Alvin, Pauline, Prince, Allwin, Melisa, Samwel, Didier, Darius, Azaria, Anicia, Clinton, Zuri, Sesenia, Randia, Kanana, Melissa, Michelle, Megan, Neil, Noel, Anzani, Azizi, Amani, Maya, Kendra and Gianna.

Sister to the late Monyangi, the late Justice Onyiego, the late Kerubo, Nyamunga, the late Monda, the late Masese, the late Agnes, Mogikoyo, Magoma,Waya, the late Dinah, Mokeira, Isaac, the late Tom, Joyce, the late Zablon, Dennis, Rhoda, Ruth, Elkanah, Roselyne, Ruth and George. She was aunt to many nieces and nephews.

Sister-In-law to Samuel Ngoko, the late Gesare, Ochiengi, the late David Orucho, Dr Nyagwoko Keriga, the late Charles Ongau, Nyansimera, Kingoina, Kengere, Ongori and Nyabera. Korera to the Mwais, Amadis, Omambias, Owalo’s, Kamanja’s, Mutua’s, Nyaisu’s, Chirchir’s, Wambugu’s, Njogu’s, Kuni’s, Kaburu’s and Ayugi’s.

There will be a memorial service on the 3rd January 2023 at the SDA church Nairobi Central (Maxwell) from 10.00am. Another memorial service will be held on 4th January 2023 at SDA church Kisii Central from 2.00pm.

The burial service will be held at Nyanchwa Adventist College on 5th January 2023 and subsequently she will be laid to rest at the family’s Daraja Mbili home, Kisii Town.

Financial support may be sent to the account details below: Paybill: 8103158 : Account: Sender’s name

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. — (John 11.25)