Pope Benedict XVI

‘One of the greatest theologians of his age’: Reactions to former pope Benedict’s death

‘One of the greatest theologians of his age’: Reactions to former pope Benedict’s death

LIGHT. Pope Benedict XVI prays while holding a candle light as he arrives to lead a vigil mass during Easter celebrations at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, on April 7, 2012.

Alessandro Bianchi/REUTERS

Former pope Benedict XVI, who died on December 31, aged 95, is the first pontiff in 600 years to resign

The following are reactions to the death of former pope Benedict XVI , who was the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from the post rather than rule for life:

Pablo Virgilio David, bishop of Kalookan and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

“Pope Benedict XVI passed on quietly on this last day of the year December 31, 2022, at 9:34 in the morning (Vatican time). I wish to thank all of you who accompanied him in prayer and offered special Mass intentions for his peaceful passage into eternal life. We will fondly remember him, especially those among us bishops, who had been appointed by him to the episcopal ministry. (It was pope Benedict XVI who appointed me bishop in July 2006.)

“If Pope Francis is known as the Pope of Mercy and Joy, pope Benedict will be remembered as the Pope of Charity. He began his episcopacy with a profoundly theological encyclical entitled DEUS CARITAS EST (God is Love). Among the many charisms God had bestowed on him, he will be specially remembered as a great theologian, catechist, and musician. He spent the last years of his life as an emeritus pope in solitude and contemplation, supporting the universal Church and Pope Francis spiritually with his prayers. Let us commend him to the Lord and pray for his eternal repose.

“Eternal rest grant unto Joseph Ratzinger, pope Benedict XVI, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him.

“Requiescat in pace. Amen.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Twitter:

“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. My thoughts are with Pope Francis.”

Markus Soeder, premier of Benedict’s home state of Bavaria:

“We mourn the death of our Bavarian pope. The death of Benedict XVI touches me deeply, as it does many people in Bavaria and all over the world. With him, society loses a convincing representative of the Catholic Church as well as one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. In turbulent and challenging times, he was the religious leader of the Catholic faithful. Many people in his homeland will remember him with gratitude not only as pope Benedict XVI, but also as a humble pastor…. His visit of several days to Bavaria as the new pope, expressing his love for the country and its people, is unforgettable. He always carried his homeland in his heart.”

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni:

“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.”

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres:

“Principled in his faith, tireless in his pursuit of peace, and determined in his defense of human rights, he was a spiritual guide to millions across the world and one of the leading academic theologians of our time…. His powerful calls for solidarity with marginalized people everywhere and his urgent appeals to close the widening gap between rich and poor are more relevant than ever.”

French President Emmanuel Macron:

“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.”

Polish President Adrzej Duda:

“Pope Benedict XVI has gone to our Father’s House. Today the world has lost one of the greatest theologians of the 20th and 21st centuries, a close collaborator of St. John Paul II. His life, works and pastoral ministry are a signpost among many winding and deceptive roads of modern times. RIP.”

Outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro:

“Although his pontificate was short, he leaves an immense legacy for the Catholic Church, for all Christians and for humanity…. In defense of the truth of the Gospel, he fearlessly criticized the errors of the so-called ‘liberation theology,’ which intends to mix up Christianity with erroneous concepts of Marxism.”

Leo Varadkar, Irish prime minister:

“Leading the Catholic Church for almost a decade, the son of a police officer & a cook, the first German elected as Pope in one thousand years, he was ultimately a ‘humble worker in vineyard of the Lord’.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster:

“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.”

Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church:

“The absolute authority of Benedict XVI as an outstanding theologian allowed him to make a significant contribution to the development of inter-Christian cooperation…and to the protection of traditional moral values.

“During the papacy of Benedict XVI, the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church developed significantly in the spirit of fraternal cooperation and the desire to interact on how to overcome the sometimes painful legacy of the past.”

Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion:

“Pope Benedict was one of the greatest theologians of his age – committed to the faith of the Church and stalwart in its defense. 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.”

Britain’s King Charles

“I…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.”

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak:

“I am saddened to learn of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He was a great theologian whose UK visit in 2010 was an historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country. My thoughts are with Catholic people in the UK and around the world today.”

Cardinal Odilo Scherer, archbishop of Sao Paulo:

“Benedict XVI was a simple, humble, sensitive and even shy man, very attentive and refined in his dealings with people. He was an intellectual and theologian of great depth, and his writings and homilies will certainly be a point of reference for the Church in the future.”


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