Pope Francis praisedhis “kindness” in his first public comments since the retired pontiff’s death. Francis thanked Benedict on Saturday for “his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of retired life.”
Speaking during a vigil on New Year’s Eve, Francis said only God knew “his sacrifices offered for the good of the church”.
Pope Francis is set to hold Benedict’s funeral on Thursday, the first time in modern times that a current pope will eulogize a retiree.
Benedict, who shocked the world by stepping down as head of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013, has died aged 95. The Vatican announced his death on Saturday.
The Vatican said his body will be put on public display in St Peter’s Basilica from Monday for worshipers to pay their last respects. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters that Benedict’s request was for his funeral to be celebrated solemnly but with “simplicity.”
The Vatican has only invited official delegations from Germany and Italy to attend Benedict’s funeral. This underscores the fact that he was no longer Pope and had asked for a simple funeral.
Nothing defined his pontificate so clearly as his end and his grand farewell flight over the Eternal City. He had become the first pope in more than 700 years to resign voluntarily.
Benedict said his mental and physical strength had deteriorated “to the extent that I had to recognize my inability to fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
A shy man by nature, Pope Benedict XVI has always said he had no ambitions to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. But he was chosen in 2005 to succeed Pope John Paul II. At 78, he took on the role of the oldest pope in nearly 30 years.
On Saturday, tributes poured in from political and religious leaders around the world.
President Joe Biden said: “He will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and his faith.”
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute to him as “one of the most combative and influential religious thinkers of our time”.
Britain’s King Charles III said he received the news of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s death “with deep sadness”, saying he fondly remembered meeting the former pontiff during a visit to the Vatican in 2009.
“I also remember his constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill to all people and to strengthen the relationship between the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church,” Charles said in a message to Pope Francis on Saturday.