Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. emphasized its importance for Germany. “As a ‘German’ Pope, Benedict XVI was a special church leader for many, not only in this country,” Scholz explained on Twitter. “The world is losing a formative figure in the Catholic Church, a controversial personality and a clever theologian.”
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid tribute to Benedict as a mediator between the religions. “The unity of Christianity and the dialogue between religions, the coexistence of religion and society were particularly important to him. He sought dialogue with Jews and Muslims and all Christian denominations worldwide,” wrote Steinmeier. Already in the work of Professor Joseph Ratzinger, a high level of theological and philosophical education was combined with understandable language. “That’s why many people, not only Catholics, found clear orientation in his writings and speeches.”
“One of the greatest theologians of his time”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “saddened” by the death of the Pope Emeritus. His visit to the UK in 2010 was a “historic moment” for both Catholics and non-Catholics, the Conservative politician wrote on Twitter. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, described him as “one of the greatest theologians of his time”. According to the spiritual leader of the Church of England, Benedict also recognized the “fragility of man” with his decision to resign from his position as head of the Catholic Church.
French President Emmanuel Macron said: “My thoughts are with Catholics in France and around the world who mourn the loss of His Holiness Benedict XVI, who worked heart and mind for a more fraternal world.” Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni spoke of the German as a “giant of faith and reason”. President Sergio Mattarella said Italy mourned Benedict, who “will remain unforgettable for the Italian people”. Russia’s head of state Vladimir Putin called him a “defender of traditional Christian values”.
“Guide through the twisted streets of the present”
Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins wrote: “At this time of the return of war on our continent and in so many parts of the world, we remember his unifying efforts to chart a common path to promoting peace and goodwill around the world Find.” The President of the strongly Catholic Poland, Andrzej Duda, declared that with his life, his work and his pastoral ministry, Benedict XVI. “like a guide through the twisted and treacherous roads of the present”.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, also commemorated the former theology professor and former Archbishop of Munich and Freising. “We remember a humble man of prayer and study”. He was principled in his faith, tireless in his quest for peace and resolute in his defense of human rights.
Catholics and Protestants pay tribute to Benedict
The chairman of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, described the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as an “impressive theologian and experienced shepherd”. He declared in Bonn: “Especially as a church in Germany, we think gratefully of Pope Benedict XVI. He was born in our country, this was his homeland, here he helped shape church life as a theological teacher and bishop.” The deceased was a personality who brought hope and direction to the church even in difficult times.
Bätzing also dealt with the processing of the abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, where Benedict worked as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger before moving to the Vatican. Benedikt took part in the work-up with a letter on the Munich report. “He asked forgiveness from those affected and yet questions remained unanswered,” said the chairman of the bishops’ conference.
“Open questions”: Bishop Georg Bätzing, Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, during a service in 2020
The chairwoman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Annette Kurschus, explained: “Joseph Ratzinger made theological contributions with great acumen and intellectual succinctness, which have impressed Christianity as a whole and the public far beyond the Catholic Church.” In Hanover, Kurschus emphasized that Benedict had given orientation to many people. As Cardinal and later as Pope Benedict XVI. he underlined what they had in common in questions of ecumenism.
Difficult dialogue with Judaism
Rabbi Walter Homolka, meanwhile, recalled the sometimes conflict-ridden dialogue with Judaism. “He didn’t make it easy for us Jews with his clear claim to truth. He always conveyed a triumphant image of the church. Its splendor is based on the risen Christ as the new thing that leaves the Jewish environment of Jesus behind,” Homolka told the Catholic News Agency .
The deceased head of the Roman Catholic Church “did not believe that Jews and Christians could overcome the divide themselves”. However, he took the position that no enmity should arise from the conflict of convictions. “Rather, he saw it as a force for peace. It wasn’t enough for a credible dialogue, but for a respectful cooperation.”
“Solemn but simple”
Benedict XVI died according to official information this Saturday morning at the age of 95 in his apartment in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican Gardens. At the beginning of his term of office in 2005, he was the first German pope in 482 years. In 2013 he announced his resignation.
Pope Francis will celebrate the funeral mass for his predecessor in St. Peter’s Square on Thursday at 9.30 a.m. According to the wishes of the deceased, it will be “solemn but simple”, said Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni. Until this mass, the body will be laid out in St. Peter’s Basilica from Monday so that the faithful from all over the world can say goodbye.
kle/jj/qu (dpa, afp, kna, epd)