By Lisa Zengarini
Reactions are beginning to pour in from across the world at the news of the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s death, who passed away on Saturday morning at 9:34.
In a statement issued soon after the news broke from the Vatican, the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, said the late German-born Pope will long be remembered fondly in Australia as the Pontiff who led young people from around the globe in prayer at World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008.
“From his time as an expert adviser at the Second Vatican Council onwards, there was no question that Joseph Ratzinger was a major figure within the Church around the world, he said. “His papacy will be remembered as one of rich teaching, including his encyclicals on love, hope and truth, as well as his book series Jesus of Nazareth, and for important reforms in areas like liturgy and in the handling of child sexual abuse.”
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, the bishop who oversaw World Youth Day in 2008, said Pope Benedict XVI had been a key influence and someone with whom he became close. “Reminiscing about his time in Australia and learning from this gentle father figure was a real joy,” he said, remarking that “He had a great intellect, which he shared through his work as a professor, a Church leader and ultimately as Pope”.
British Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster describes Pope Benedict as a pastor, a scholar, a gentleman, and a man of God.
“Pope Benedict was through and through a gentleman, through and through a scholar, through and through a pastor, through and through a man of God – close to the Lord and always, always his humble servant.”
The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) says he has fond memories of Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to the UK in 2010. “It was a remarkable event in many, many ways”, he says, noting that the “two weeks of criticism, rancour and distress” expressed by some before the visit “soon dissipated”, and turned into enthusiasm. “We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.”
“[ We saw in the person of Pope Benedict, nothing to do with the name that he’d been given of ‘God’s Rottweiler’, but at the end of the visit, as one commentator said, he appeared as everybody’s favourite grandfather.]”
According to Cardinal Nichols, Benedict’s visit to the UK marked a turning point for the Catholic Church in the country: “That visit, especially the visit to Westminster Hall, still resonates – it still gives Catholic politicians a platform and a continuing respect.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, whom Benedict met during that visit, has joined with Pope Francis and all the Catholic Church in mourning the Pope Emeritus’ death.
“In his life and ministry, Pope Benedict XVI directed people to Christ”, the head of the Anglican Communion remarked in a tweet on Saturday .
In his condolences statement on behalf of the Irish Bishops and the faithful across Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh too remembers the late Pope’s deep spirituality, humility and gentleness, describing him as an “outstanding apostle of Christ”.
“During his own pontificate Pope Benedict witnessed powerfully to faith, hope and love – the three theological virtues – about which he wrote profoundly in his encyclical letters: God is Love (Deus caritas est); Saved by Hope (Spe salvi); and, The Light of Faith (Lumen fidei) – which was completed by his successor Pope Francis.”
“With his great capacity to listen combined with a personal, discreet charm, the late Pope was able to win people to Christ wherever he was”, the Irish Catholic Primate writes.
The statement further highlights his “commitment to dialogue between faith and reason” and his concern for “Europe’s spiritual identity”. It also recalls his special concern for Ireland and the Irish Church, especially during the clericl child abuse crisis which led to his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland in 2010.
For his part, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, says he has mixed feelings of “sorrow” and “gratitude” at the news. In a reflection published on the USCCB website, the Archbishop for the Military Services, expresses the gratitude of the U.S. Church “for the treasured ministry of Pope Benedict XVI”, whose voice, he says, “led all of us to a more profound love of truth and the mystery of God”. “Even in retirement, retreating to live out a life in quiet prayer and study, he continued to teach us how to be a true disciple of Christ, while still contributing to his legacy”, notes Archbishop Broglio.
In his message of condolences, the President of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), Archbishop Gintaras Grušas, draws attention to the “European Magisterium that Benedict XVI developed during his pontificate, emphasizing the importance of Europe’s Christian roots and highlighting a necessary return to Christ and to the evangelization for the construction of a civilization of love”. He assures that the bishops of Europe, will continue to develop this Magisterium “in the certainty that only Christ is the hope for a Europe in conflict”.
While joining Pope Francis in mourning the late Pope Emeritus, the president of the CCEE asks “all the ecclesial communities in Europe for prayers to accompany Benedict XVI on his last pilgrimage and to invoke Heaven from the Lord for his good and faithful servant”.
By Lisa Zengarini