Bishops of England, Scotland, and Wales line up to kiss Pope Benedict XVI’s ring at Oscott College in Birmingham, central England, on Sept. 19, 2010, where he later addressed bishops. / Photo by MATT CARDY/AFP via Getty Images
CNA Newsroom, Dec 31, 2022 / 14:55 pm (CNA).
The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales led tributes to the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, hailing him as one of the great theologians of the 20th century.
In a statement released Dec. 31, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Pope Benedict. He will be remembered as one of the great theologians of the 20th century.
“I remember with particular affection the remarkable papal visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind, and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.
“He 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 his humble servant.
“Pope Benedict is very much in my heart and in my prayers. I give thanks to God for his ministry and leadership.”
Pope Benedict XVI famously visited the U.K. in 2010, where he celebrated Mass at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow; led a prayer vigil for young people at Hyde Park, London; and ended his visit with the beatification of John Henry Newman at Cofton Park, Birmingham.
The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert, described the late pope emeritus as a “shy and scholarly man” in a statement released Dec. 31.
Bishop Gilbert said: “With the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict, we lose one of the leading Catholic figures of the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of our own.
“By nature, a shy and scholarly man and by profession a priest-theologian, he found himself drawn ever more into public life as archbishop of Munich, as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, and finally as pope, the first German since the end of the Second World War to attain world pre-eminence.
“He once wrote: ‘My basic intention has been to expose the real core of the faith underneath the encrustations, and to give this core its true power and dynamism. This has been the constant direction of my life.’ His full stature will surely emerge increasingly. May he rest in peace.”
The U.K. prime minister and King Charles III also added their voices to the tributes paid to the late pope emeritus.
Following the announcement of his death, 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.”
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.
My thoughts are with Catholic people in the UK and around the world today.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) December 31, 2022
Meanwhile, King Charles sent a message of condolence to Pope Francis, which read: “Your Holiness, I received the news of the death of your predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with deep sadness.
The King has sent a message of condolence to Pope Francis following the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) December 31, 2022
“I remember with fondness my meeting with His Holiness during my visit to the Vatican in 2009.
“His visit to the U.K. in 2010 was important in strengthening the relations between the Holy See and the U.K.
“I also recall his constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill to all people, and to strengthen the relationship between the global Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.”
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales will now celebrate Requiem Masses for the repose of the soul of the late pope emeritus in their respective cathedrals.