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Tributes Mount on the Death of Pope Benedict XVI


FILE: In this photo taken on December 7, 2005 the cross of Pope Benedict XVI reflects the sun as he attends his traditional weekly general audience in St Peter's square at Vatican.

UPDATED WITH PRESIDENT BIDEN STATEMENT, NEW INFORMATION: The death Saturday of former Pope Benedict, 95, who stepped aside in 2013, has prompted a flood of tributes from fellow religious and national leaders.

The Saturday passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at 95 years has prompted a flood of tributes.

U.S. President Joe Biden mourned him, stating Benedict “will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith.”

King Charles led the UK's tributes to the former pope, praising his efforts to "promote peace" between Catholic and Protestant communities.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the Anglican world's highest-ranking cleric, described him as "one of the greatest theologians of his age."

Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, said he was "an eminent religious and state figure, a convinced defender of traditional Christian values."

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill said former pope Benedict XVI was as an "outstanding theologian."

Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, hailed the late pope as an "outstanding theologian, intellectual and promoter of universal values."

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki bid farewell to "one of the greatest theologians of our time".

"Throughout his life, he showed the spiritual and intellectual depth of Christianity," he said.

Poland was the home of Pope John Paul II, whom Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, German-born, succeeded upon his death in 2005. Pope John Paul II was later raised to sainthood.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the former pope was "committed with all his heart to the historic reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world".

When the two met in 2009 in Israel, Netanyahu said the pontiff spoke "warmly about the common heritage of Christianity and Judaism, and the common values that this heritage gave to all of humanity."

Vatican sources say Pope Benedict will lie in state in Vatican City's St. Peter's Basilica starting on Monday, with his funeral set for Thursday, January 5.

The 95-year-old would have a "solemn but simple" funeral led by Pope Francis, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists at a briefing after his death.

German-born Pope Benedict, baptized with the name Joseph Ratzinger, led the church until his retirement in 2013, the first pontiff in 600 years to step aside rather than die in the office.

The 95-year-old retired leader of the Roman Catholic Church represented the conservative arm of the global faith, in strong contrast to its current pontiff, Pope Francis. And under him, that conservative wing grew in power and impact.

Prior to his becoming pope, Cardinal Ratzinger used his powerful Vatican post to empower and reinforce those conservatives.

78 years old at the time of papal elevation, Pope Benedict did not propel forward the modernization of the church that began in the 1960s with Pope Paul VI and the Vatican II council that, among other things, changed the language of celebration of the Roman Catholic service from Latin to languages spoken around the world.

Reuters succinctly stated his positions and differences with Pope Francis this way: "Unlike Francis, a Jesuit who delights in being among his flock, Benedict was a conservative intellectual dubbed 'God's Rottweiler' in a previous post as chief doctrinal enforcer."

Some data for this article was sourced from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.