Pope Francis has Benedict XVI. paid tribute and described his late predecessor as a noble, kind man who was a gift to the church and the world.
In the homily, Francis spoke of a previously planned New Year’s Eve thanksgiving vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the body of the Pope Emeritus is to be exhibited next week.
He said: “It is with emotion that we remember his person, so noble, so kind. And we feel in our hearts such gratitude, gratitude to God for giving him to the church and to the world.’
Benedict, 95, died at the Vatican on Saturday morning after his health suddenly deteriorated over Christmas.
Elected after the death of John Paul II in 2005, he reigned for eight years until 2013, when he shocked the world by becoming the first pope to resign in 600 years.
His dramatic decision paved the way for the conclave that elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as his successor, who took the name of Francis.
The two popes then lived side by side in the Vatican Gardens, an unprecedented arrangement that called on the Vatican to develop rules and regulations to guide future popes who might follow in its footsteps and quit.
Even Francis chimed in, saying a decade after Benedict’s experiment that regulations would be needed in the future.
In Benedict’s case, everything went well because he was “holy and discreet,” he added.
The Jesuit pope said that when he retired he would be known as “Bishop Emeritus of Rome” rather than “Pope Emeritus” and would live somewhere in Rome, not the Vatican or his native Argentina.
But Francis could not establish protocols governing a future retired pope while Benedict was still alive, creating a situation of uncertainty and unease about the status quo that particularly angered Benedict’s most staunch supporters.
Now that Benedict has died, the Vatican might be in a better position to draw up such regulations.
Pope Francis will celebrate Benedict’s funeral mass on Thursday, the first time in modern times that a current pope has praised a retired pope.
However, to underscore that this is not a papal funeral, the Vatican invited only Italy and Germany to send official delegations, with all other leaders wishing to attend “in their private capacity,” according to a diplomatic note.
Tributes have arrived from political and religious leaders from around the world.
King Charles III said he got the news of Benedict XVI’s death. received “with deep sadness” and fondly recalls meeting the former Pope during a visit to the Vatican in 2009.
“I also remember his constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill for all people and to strengthen the relationship between the global Anglican communion and the Roman Catholic Church,” Charles said in a message to Pope Francis on Saturday.
Charles is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the late Pope as “one of the most combative and important religious thinkers of our time”.
Merkel, the daughter of a Protestant pastor, led Germany as pope for most of Benedict’s reign. She said in a statement that she felt “great sadness” at his death.
She referred to Benedict’s interest in relations with orthodox Christians and in dialogue with Jews and Muslims.
Merkel recalled a speech by Benedict to the German Bundestag in 2011 and his “historic” decision in 2013 to resign.
“With this decision, he has set an example that the Pope must also deal with the burden of old age,” she said.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he would attend Benedict’s funeral on Thursday.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella said the death of the pope emeritus was a cause of mourning for the whole country.
Mattarella said that “his kindness and wisdom have benefited our community and the international community at large.”
He added in a statement that Benedict “continues to serve the cause of his Church with humility and serenity in his unique role as Pope Emeritus.”
The President said Benedict “interpreted with finesse the reasons for dialogue, peace, the dignity of the person and the supreme interests of religions”.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/12/31/pope-francis-pays-tribute-to-late-predecessor-benedict-xvi-18019537/ Pope Francis commemorates late predecessor Benedict XVI