Tributes paid to ‘great theologian’ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI after his death

Tributes paid to ‘great theologian’ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI after his death

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has hailed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as “one of the great theologians of the 20th century” after his death aged 95.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols praised Benedict’s “landmark” trip in 2010 when he became the second pope in history to visit the UK.

The German theologian met the Queen in Edinburgh and made a speech at Westminster Hall during the historic visit.

The Queen with Pope Benedict XVI
The Queen with Pope Benedict XVI (David Cheskin/PA)

Reacting to news of his death on Saturday, Mr Nichols said in statement: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Pope Benedict. He will be remembered as one of the great theologians of the 20th century.

“I remember with particular affection the remarkable Papal Visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.

“He was through and through a gentleman, through and through a scholar, through and through a pastor, through and through a man of God – close to the Lord and always his humble servant.”

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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby hailed Benedict as “one of the greatest theologians of his age”.

In a statement, he said Benedict was “committed to the faith of the Church and stalwart in its defence”.

He added: “In all things, not least in his writing and his preaching, he looked to Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God. It was abundantly clear that Christ was the root of his thought and the basis of his prayer.

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“In 2013 Pope Benedict took the courageous and humble step to resign the papacy, the first Pope to do so since the fifteenth century. In making this choice freely he acknowledged the human frailty that affects us all.

“In his retirement in Rome he has led a life of prayer and now he has gone to the eternal rest granted by the Father.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “I am saddened to learn of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

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“He was a great theologian whose UK visit in 2010 was an historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also tweeted a tribute which said: “His state visit in 2010 was a historic and joyous moment for Catholics in Britain.”

Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the 265th pope on April 19 2005, aged 78, and chose the name Benedict.

He served until February 2013 before becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign, citing his old age and declining health.

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales will celebrate Requiem Masses for the repose of the soul of the late Pope Emeritus in their cathedrals.

Prayer cards have been distributed to Catholic parishes throughout the two countries.