World Leaders Pay Tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd gathered in St Mark's Square while crossing the square on an electric car on May 7, 2011 in Venice, Italy.
Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd gathered in St Mark’s Square while crossing the square on an electric car on May 7, 2011 in Venice, Italy.

Marco Secchi/Getty Pope Benedict XVI

World leaders are paying tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI following his death Saturday at the age of 95.

German Chancellor Olaf Shultz spoke for Benedict’s fellow countrymen in a Twitter post, writing “As a “German” #Pope, #BenedictXVI was a special church leader for many, not only in this country.”

“The world is losing a formative figure of the Catholic Church, an argumentative personality and a clever theologian,” he added about Benedict, who became the first German in 500 years to hold the highest position of the Roman Catholic Church when he became Pope in April 2005. “My thoughts are with Pope Francis.”

King Charles III sent a personal message to Benedict’s successor Pope Francis, which expressed his “deep sadness.”

“I remember with fondness my meeting with His Holiness during my visit to the Vatican in 2009. His visit to the United Kingdom in 2010 was important in strengthening the relations between the Holy See and the United Kingdom,” added Charles about the historic difficulties between the Church of England and the Vatican.

“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.  My wife and I send you our continued good wishes for your own pontificate. Charles R.”

French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to say that Benedict “worked with all his soul and intelligence for a more fraternal world,” while British prime Minister Rishi Sunak described him as “a great theologian.”

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said that “Benedict XVI was a giant of faith and reason. He put his life at the service of the universal Church and spoke, and will continue to speak, to the hearts and minds of men with the spiritual, cultural and intellectual depth of his Magisterium.”

Pope Francis met former Pope Benedict XVI to exchange Christmas greetings, in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, Benedict XVI's new residence on December 23, 2013 in Vatican City.
Pope Francis met former Pope Benedict XVI to exchange Christmas greetings, in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, Benedict XVI’s new residence on December 23, 2013 in Vatican City.

Maurix/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with Pope Francis

The Holy See announced the news of Benedict’s death in a short statement Saturday morning.

“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,” wrote Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office. “Further information will be provided as soon as possible.”

The Vatican added that Benedict’s remains will lie in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome from January 2 to allow “the greeting of the faithful.”

His funeral will then be held on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. local time in St. Peter’s Square, presided over by Pope Francis, The New York Times reported Saturday, citing a Vatican spokesman, who added that the service would be a “solemn but sober funeral.”

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Pope Benedict and Pope Francis

Francis first revealed that his predecessor was unwell at the Vatican on Wednesday, Dec. 28, when he said that Benedict was “very sick,” and asked his audience for “a special prayer” in his honor.

The Vatican later confirmed that Benedict’s health had “worsened due to age,” NBC News reported.

Benedict served as head of the Catholic Church in Vatican City for nearly eight years, beginning in 2005 following the April death of Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

Pool/Anwar Hussein Collection/Getty Queen Elizabeth and Pope

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was born in Germany, was 78 years old when he accepted the position, making him one of the oldest individuals to be named Pope.

In 2013, Benedict made headlines when he unexpectedly stepped down from his role, becoming the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years.

Benedict cited his “advanced age” in the announcement, noting that “both strength of mind and body are necessary” to lead the Church.

“I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering,” he said at the time, per the BBC.

Benedict held his final mass as Pope in February 2013 at age 85. Speaking in front of more than 55,000 people at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, he thanked supporters for understanding his decision.

“To love the church also means having the courage to take difficult decisions,” he said at the time.

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