UN Secretary General Anthony Guterres on Saturday offered deepest condolences to Catholics on the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died at the age of 95.
Mr Guterres, in a statement, also offered condolences to others around the world who were inspired by his life of prayer and tenacious commitment to non-violence and peace.
“It is with great sadness that I have learned of the passing of His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“We remember Pope Benedict as a humble man of prayer and study.
“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 said.
The UN chief recalled his 2008 visit and address to the United Nations and his appeal for “building international relations in a way that allows every person and every people to feel they can make a difference”.
“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,’’ he said.
Recall that Pope Benedict was the first pope in 600 years to resign. He became increasingly frail during his almost 10 years of retirement.
Pope Benedict’s decision in 2013 to resign paved the way for the conclave that elected Pope Francis.
The two popes then lived side-by-side in the Vatican gardens in an unprecedented arrangement that set the stage for future “popes emeritus” to do the same.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger never wanted to be pope. But he was forced to follow in St. John Paul II’s footsteps, running the church during a period of scandal and indifference.
The Vatican says that Pope Francis will celebrate the funeral Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square on Thursday.
It will be an unprecedented event in which a current pope will celebrate the funeral for a former one.