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Pope Francis, world leaders pay tribute to ex-pope Benedict XVI

By Agence France-Presse Published Jan 01, 2023 10:30 am Updated Jan 01, 2023 10:37 am

Tributes have poured in after former pope Benedict XVI died aged 95 on Saturday, almost a decade after he became the first pontiff to resign in six centuries.

Hours after the Vatican announced Benedict's death, Pope Francis paid tribute to the ex-pontiff on social media, noting that he was a "noble" and "kind" person.

"At this moment, my thought goes spontaneously to dear Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who left us this morning. We are moved as we recall him as such as noble person, so kind," Francis wrote.

"And we feel such gratitude in our hearts: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and the world; gratitude to him for all the good he accomplished, and above all, for his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his recollected life."

Pope Francis will preside over Benedict's "simple and solemn" funeral at the St. Peter's Square on Thursday, 9:30 a.m. (4:30 p.m. PHT).

Leaders all over the world have likewise expressed sympathy for the former pope's demise and looked back on his contribution to humankind during his eight-year papacy. Here are some of the tributes:

'Commitment to non-violence'

UN chief Antonio Guterres praised the former pontiff for his "tenacious commitment to non-violence and peace".

'Global peace'

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he would be remembered for "his efforts for global peace and the centrality of human beings' dignity" in his ideas.

'Lifetime of devotion'

US President Joe Biden said the late pope "will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church".

Biden, only the second Catholic to serve as US president, said he would "always remember his generosity and welcome".

'Soul and intelligence'

France's President Emmanuel Macron said the ex-pope "strove with soul and intelligence for a more brotherly world".

'Formative figure'

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz hailed his fellow countryman as a "special church leader" who helped shape the Catholic church.

"The world has lost a formative figure of the Catholic Church, an argumentative personality and a clever theologian," he said.

'Giant of faith'

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hailed the former leader of the Catholic Church as a "giant of faith and reason".

She described him as "a Christian, a pastor, a theologian, a great figure in history".

'Spiritual depth'

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki bid farewell to "one of the greatest theologians of our time".

"Throughout his life, he showed the spiritual and intellectual depth of Christianity," he said.

'Defender of traditional Christian values'

Russia's President Vladimir Putin said he was "an eminent religious and state figure, a convinced defender of traditional Christian values".

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill said former pope Benedict XVI was an "outstanding theologian".

'Promoter of universal values'

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the late pope as an "outstanding theologian, intellectual and promoter of universal values".

'Reconciliation' between Jews and Catholics

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the former pope was "committed with all his heart to the historic reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world".

When the two met in 2009 in Israel, Netanyahu said the pontiff spoke "warmly about the common heritage of Christianity and Judaism, and the common values that this heritage gave to all of humanity."

'Untiring efforts'

Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins said he would "be remembered for his untiring efforts to find a common path in promoting peace and goodwill throughout the world, including a steadfast interest in peace in Northern Ireland".

'Great theologian'

King Charles led the UK's tributes to the former pope, praising his efforts to "promote peace" between Catholic and Protestant communities.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Benedict was "a great theologian whose UK visit in 2010 was an historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country".

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the Anglican world's highest-ranking cleric, described him as "one of the greatest theologians of his age".

'Strong signal'

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said he had "set a strong signal through his resignation" in 2013.

"Once his physical strength waned, he continued to serve through the power of his prayers," she said.

'Prominent scholar'

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said "we recognise him as a prominent scholar and prominent theologian. Rest in peace."

'Inspiration to millions'

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Benedict had "dedicated his life to serving his faith. He was an accomplished theologian and scholar, and he was an inspiration to millions."