Pope Francis Leads Tributes To Benedict XVI

Pope Francis has led tributes to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who has died, aged 95.

Benedict had been “noble” and “kind” – and “gifted” to the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope said.

US President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Lula are among dozens of leaders to praise the former pontiff.

Benedict resigned in 2013 because of poor health – the first pope to do so in 600 years. His funeral service will be held at the Vatican on 5 January.

The 265th leader of the Catholic Church, Benedict was a controversial figure. While some mourners hailed him, a resolute defender of the faith, others criticized his tenure for a failure to tackle allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

But hours after the announcement of his death, Pope Francis praised his “dearest” predecessor, emphasizing “his sacrifices offered for the good of the Church”.

In the US, the White House released a statement from President Joe Biden – who is only the second Catholic after John F Kennedy to hold the nation’s highest office.

Recalling spending time with Benedict at the Vatican in 2011, the president said that he would “be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith”.

Leaders of countries with large Catholic populations across the world also paid tribute, with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hailing Benedict as a “giant of faith and reason” and “a great man whom history will not forget”.

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the former pope as a “humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord”.

In Brazil – the largest Catholic nation in the world – incoming President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said he wished “comfort to the faithful and admirers of the Holy Father”.

And his predecessor – President Jair Bolsonaro – hailed Benedict’s “masterful work as a great theologian” and said he left an “immense legacy for the Catholic Church, for all Christians and for humanity”.

In the UK, the new monarch King Charles III said that he received news of the former Pope’s death with “deep sadness”.

Sending a message of condolence to Pope Francis, he highlighted Benedict’s “constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill to all people” and his actions to strengthen bonds between Catholics and Anglicans.

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