Greece expresses "deepest condolences" on passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Greece Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Benedict XVI

Greece expressed its "deepest condolences" for the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in a social media post on Saturday.

"It is with great sadness that we received the news of the passing of the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI," the Greek foreign ministry said in a tweet.

"At this time of sorrow, we extend our deepest condolences to His Holiness Pope Francis, the Holy See, his loved ones, and to Catholics all around the world," the ministry added in its tweet.

For his part, Pope Francis called former pope Benedict XVI a noble, kind man who was a gift to the church and the world, in his first public comments since the death of his predecessor earlier on Saturday.

Francis spoke in the homily of a previously planned New Year’s Eve vespers of thanksgiving in St Peter’s Basilica.

“It is with emotion that we remember his person, so noble, so kind. And we feel in our heart such gratitude, gratitude to God for having gifted him to the church and the world,” Francis said.

Political and religious leaders around the world paid tribute to Pope Benedict XVI, after his death was announced on Saturday.

President Joe Biden, a devoted Catholic, said the Pope Emeritus, who stunned the Roman Catholic church when he retired almost 10 years ago, would “be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the church, guided by his principles and faith”.

“May his focus on the ministry of charity continue to be an inspiration to us all,” he added.

King Charles III praised Benedict’s “constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill to all people” after his death.

The King expressed his “deep sadness” at Benedict’s death in a message to his successor Pope Francis, as the head of the Church of England.

Benedict became the second pontiff in history to visit the UK in 2010 when he met the Queen and made a historic address at Westminster Hall.

Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, said he was saddened at the news of Benedict’s death and recalled his visit to Britain in 2010 as “an historic moment for Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country”.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, also said Benedict’s visit had been “historic and joyous”.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the former pope’s visit to Scotland had been “special”.

Giorgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, said Benedict was “a giant of faith and reason … A Christian, a pastor, a theologian: a great man whom history will not forget.”

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said his “thoughts go out to Catholics in France and around the world”. Benedict had “worked with all his soul and intelligence for a more fraternal world”, he added.

Michael D Higgins, the president of Ireland, said that during his tenure Benedict had “sought to highlight both the common purpose of the world’s major religions and his injunctions as to how our individual responsibilities as citizens require the highest standards of ethics in our actions”.

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, said: “The world has lost a formative figure of the Catholic church, an argumentative personality and a clever theologian.”

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, paid tribute to an “outstanding theologian, intellectual and promoter of universal values”.

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, described Benedict as “principled in his faith, tireless in his pursuit of peace, and determined in his defence of human rights”.

“He was a spiritual guide to millions across the world and one of the leading academic theologians of our time,” he added. “His powerful calls for solidarity with marginalised people everywhere and his urgent appeals to close the widening gap between rich and poor are more relevant than ever.”

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