Tributes to ‘towering figure’ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI following his death

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Tributes to ‘towering figure’ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI following his death

Benedict XVI, who succeeded John Paul II as Pope in 2005 but stepped down in 2013 due to poor health, died aged 95.

File photo dated 17/09/10 of Pope Benedict XVI meeting the then Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks at a meeting of religious leaders at St Mary's University College Chapel in Twickenham.
File photo dated 17/09/10 of Pope Benedict XVI meeting the then Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks at a meeting of religious leaders at St Mary's University College Chapel in Twickenham.

Jewish communities worldwide have hailed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as “one of the great theologians of the 20th century” after his death aged 95. 

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said: “Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a towering figure of the Roman Catholic Church, both as pope and before that as the cardinal who gave the Catholic-Jewish relationship solid theological underpinning and enhanced understanding. No pope before him visited as many synagogues, and he made a point of meeting with local Jewish community representatives whenever he visited foreign nations.”

He added: “I was honoured to meet with Pope Benedict three times at the Vatican, and each time was deeply moved by his affection and friendship for the Jewish people, his commitment to remembrance of the Shoah, and his unambiguous condemnation of Holocaust denial in any form.”

Tributes also came from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In a letter to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, president Marie van der Zyl described the former pontiff as “a towering intellect and leader.

“The Board of deputies gteatly values its strong and positive relationship with the Catholic Church and we therefore share in your sorrow. As we say in the Jewish community: ‘May his memory be a blessing.'”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby hailed Benedict as “one of the greatest theologians of his age”. In a statement, he said Benedict was “committed to the faith of the Church and stalwart in its defence”.

He added: “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.

“In 2013 Pope Benedict took the courageous and humble step to resign the papacy, the first Pope to do so since the fifteenth century. In making this choice freely he acknowledged the human frailty that affects us all.

“In his retirement in Rome he has led a life of prayer and now he has gone to the eternal rest granted by the Father.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “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.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also tweeted a tribute which said: “His state visit in 2010 was a historic and joyous moment for Catholics in Britain.”

Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the 265th pope on April 19 2005, aged 78, and chose the name Benedict.

He served until February 2013 before becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign, citing his old age and declining health.

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