Politicians and religious leaders have been paying tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died Saturday at a Vatican convent at the age of 95.
Benedict, the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign instead of serving for life, died Saturday, according to a Vatican statement.
“It is with great sadness that I inform you that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away at 9:34 this morning in the Convent of the Church of Our Lady in the Vatican,” said Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See’s press office.
The funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will take place in St. Petersburg on Thursday. St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City at 9:30 a.m. local time, Bruni said. The funeral will be presided over by Pope Francis.
The ex-pope’s body will be buried in St. Petersburg. St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican will send off faithful on Monday, Vatican News reported on Saturday. Bruni said his funeral would be “simple”, in accordance with the wishes of the pope emeritus.
News of his death comes days after Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for Benedict, saying he was “very ill”.
“I would like to ask everyone to pray especially for Pope Benedict who supported the Church in silence. He was very ill. We ask the Lord to comfort and support him until the last moment, witnessing his love for the Church,” said the church. Francis said before his general audience on Wednesday.
For some time, his health has been declining.
On February 11, 2013, Benedict shocked Catholic believers and religious experts all over the world by announcing his plans to resign as Pope on the grounds of “advanced age”.
In his farewell address, the outgoing pope promised seclusion, but he has continued to speak out on religious issues in the years since his retirement, stoking tensions within the Catholic Church.
Benedict has been a powerful force in the Catholic Church for decades. Josef Ratzinger was born in Germany in 1927, the son of a policeman. He was ordained priest in 1951, promoted to cardinal in 1977, and later served as chief theological advisor to Pope John Paul II.
His most important step came in 1981, when he took over as head of the Anglican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office that oversees “faith and moral teaching throughout the Catholic world,” according to the Vatican.
Ratzinger has been dubbed “the cardinal veto” for his fight against the liberation theology movement, religious pluralism, challenges to traditional teaching on issues such as homosexuality and calls for the ordination of women to priesthood.
He was elected pope in April 2005 following the death of John Paul II.
He is known to be more conservative than his successor, Pope Francis, who has moved to soften the Vatican’s stance on abortion and homosexuality and do more to address the sexual abuse crisis that has engulfed the church in recent years and cast a shadow over Benedict. legacy.
In April 2019, Benedict discussed the sexual abuse crisis in an open letter, claiming that it was caused in part by the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the liberalization of the church’s moral teaching.
In January 2020, Benedict was forced to distance himself from a book widely seen as undermining Francis as he considered whether to allow married men to become priests in certain circumstances. The book, “From the Heart,” endorses the centuries-old tradition of priestly celibacy within the Catholic Church. Benedict was initially listed as a co-author, but it was later clarified that he contributed only part of the text.
A year later, Benedict came under fire during his tenure as archbishop of Munich and Freising between 1977 and 1982 after a church-commissioned report on abuse by Catholic clergy there.
The report found that he was informed of four cases of sexual abuse involving minors at the time of his postings — two of which occurred during his tenure — but did not take action. The report also revealed that Benedict had attended a meeting about an abuser identified as Pastor X. After the report was published, Benedict disputed allegations that he knew the pastor was an abuser in 1980.
In a letter released by the angry Vatican, Benedict wrote that despite his flaws, he was “in a good mood” facing “the last judge of my life”. He also issued a general apology to abuse survivors.
World leaders have paid tribute to the former pope after his death. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England, said he was “mourning” the former pope.
“Pope Benedict was one of the greatest theologians of his day — committed to the Church’s faith and staunchly defending it,” Welby said in a statement Saturday.
“In everything, and especially in his writing and preaching, he looked to Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God. It was evident that Christ was the foundation of his thinking and the foundation of his prayers.
“In 2013, Pope Benedict courageously and humbly resigned the papacy, the first Pope to do so since the fifteenth century. In making this choice, he frankly acknowledged that it affects us all. human frailty,” he added.
New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan said he would remember the former Pope with “love and gratitude”.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the eminent Pope Benedict XVI,” European Parliament President Roberta Mezzola said on Twitter on Saturday.
“Europe mourns for him. May he rest in peace.”
Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, told Pope Francis on Saturday that he had received “sad” news from Benedict XVI, according to information shared on the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate.
“The many years of His Holiness’ life marked a complete era in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, which he led during a difficult period of history, linked to many external and internal challenges,” Kirill said of Benedict XVI.
Kirill added that relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church “developed significantly” during Benedict’s tenure in an effort to “overcome the sometimes painful legacy of the past.”
“On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church, I offer my condolences to you and to the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church,” he continued.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also paid tribute. “Sad to learn of the passing of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI,” Sunak tweeted on Saturday.
“He was a great theologian and his visit to the UK in 2010 was a historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics in our country.
“My heart goes out to Catholics in the UK and around the world today,” Sunak added.
Italy’s new prime minister, Giorgio Meloni, has expressed his admiration for the former pope. “Benedict XVI was a giant of faith and reason. He gave his life to the service of the universal Church and spoke to people with the spiritual, cultural and intellectual depth of his teaching and will continue to speak to people’s hearts Speak to ideas,” she tweeted on Saturday.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday that the former pope had “sent a strong signal by resigning”.
“Pope Benedict fell ill as soon as she arrived. My sympathy goes out to all Catholics,” von der Leyen said in a tweet, adding, “He sent a strong signal by resigning. First he will Consider yourself a servant of God and the church.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who led Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, called the former pope a “staunch defender of traditional Christian values”.