World leaders are reacting to news of the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who led the Roman Catholic Church for eight years and was the first supreme pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years. Per Reuters, politicians and religious leaders paid tribute to the 95-year-old who was widely regarded as one of the greatest theologians of the last century.
Olaf Scholtz, Chancellor of Germany, expressed his pride over his country’s native son, whom he described as extraordinarily astute and forthright:
“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, a forthright personality and a clever theologian. My thoughts are with Pope Francis.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak lauded the late pope’s status as a towering philosopher, and gave condolences to the Catholic community.
French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his sorrow and extended words of comfort to the faithful in his country, extolling the former pontiff’s passion of unity.
“My thoughts go out to Catholics in France and around the world, bereaved by the departure of His Holiness Benedict XVI, who worked with all his soul and intelligence for a more fraternal world.”
Giorgia Meloni, prime minister of Italy, praised his powers of faith and intellect.
“Benedict XVI was a giant of faith and reason. A man in love with the Lord who put his life at the service of the Universal Church and has spoken, and will continue to speak, to the hearts and minds of people with the spiritual, cultural, and intellectual depth of his Magisterium. A Christian, a pastor, a theologian: a great man whom history will not forget.”
Justin Welby, archbishop of Cantebury and head of the Anglican Church, expressed admiration for Pope Benedict’s unwavering devotion and service to his faith, and celebrated his legacy as an author and historian.
“Pope Benedict was one of the greatest theologians of his age – committed to the faith of the Church and stalwart in its defence. 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.”
Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester published a statement reflecting on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s influence.
Pope Benedict’s papacy began on April 19, 2005, when he was elected the 265th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. He succeeded Pope John Paul II at the age of 78. His tenure was not without controversy as, in rapidly changing world, his rigid views of the role of women in the institution and homosexuality did not go unchallenged. The ideological tensions in the church impacted his shocking resignation on Feb. 28, 2013. He was also criticized for his handling of cases of sexual abuse in the church for which he apologized in 2022.
History will remember him as one of the Catholic church’s most erudite pontiffs. Yet his legacy will continue to beg the question of whether it is wise to prioritize principles over people.
Pope Benedict’s funeral event will be held on Thursday, Jan. 5, which will be led by his successor, Pope Francis. Benedict’s body will lie in state in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican from Monday, Jan. 2, for the Catholic faithful to bid farewell.