The Associated Press
The latest on the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has only invited official delegations from Germany and Italy to participate in the funeral for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. That underlines the fact that he was no longer pope and had requested a simple funeral.
According to a letter to the diplomatic corps obtained Saturday by The Associated Press, the Vatican Secretariat of State asked diplomatic missions to communicate to the protocol office how many people would be attending Thursday’s funeral. But it stressed that aside from German and Italian official delegations, “the presence of other official delegations is not foreseen.”
It added that “authorities from other countries who wish to may participate in a private capacity.”
That made clear this is not a funeral for a pope, which would normally be a state affair requiring the presence of heads of state or government from any of the more than 185 countries with which the Holy See has diplomatic relations.
Italian security officials estimate some 60,000 people will attend Thursday’s funeral in St. Peter’s Square, state TV reported. That’s far fewer than the estimated 300,000 who attended the 2005 funeral for St. John Paul II.
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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican says that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s body will be on public display in St. Peter’s Basilica starting Monday for the faithful to pay their final respects.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters that Benedict’s request was that his funeral would be celebrated solemnly but with “simplicity.”
Pope Francis is set to celebrate Benedict’s funeral Mass on Thursday, the first time in the modern age that a current pope will eulogize a retired one.
CAIRO — Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church is mourning the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
The church and its spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II, hailed Benedict in a statement as “the best successor to the best predecessor” who spent his entire life in “the service of his Roman Catholic Church.”
BERLIN — Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel is paying tribute to the late Pope Benedict XVI as “one of the most combative and significant religious thinkers of our time.”
Merkel, the daughter of a Protestant pastor, led Germany for most of Benedict’s reign as pope. She said in a statement that she felt “great sorrow” at his death.
She pointed to Benedict’s interest in relations with Orthodox Christians and in dialog with Jews and Muslims.
Merkel recalled a speech Benedict made to the German parliament in 2011 and his “historic” decision in 2013 to resign.
She said that “with this decision, he sent a signal that even the pope had to grapple with the burdens of age.”
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that he will attend Benedict’s funeral on Thursday.
ALTOETTING, Germany — The pastor of the Bavarian town of Altoetting, where Benedict came many times as a pilgrim to pray to a famous statue of the Virgin Mary, has lauded the former pope as a humble, yet knowledgeable and unique man.
“He was humble in the Bavarian way,” Pastor Klaus Metzl told The Associated Press. “We all knew what he could do and how much he knew, but he never bragged about it.”
Standing in front of the golden, life-size statue of the pope on Altoetting’s town square, where mourners had lit candles and put down white roses, Metzl reminisced about his first personal encounters with the future pope in 1990 in Rome when he was a theology student.
Metzl said that “every Thursday, he would join the morning mass and afterward have breakfast with us, it was wonderful, his company was so inspiring for us,”
He recalled that Benedict “would always caress the cats at the Vatican, and they knew him, they’d come straight to him when they saw him.”
The state government in Bavaria ordered that flags on regional government buildings be flown at half-staff Saturday and on the day of Benedict’s funeral.
JERUSALEM — The death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is beihg marked in the holy city of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the region.
Church bells rang out continuously throughout the labyrinthine alleys of Jerusalem’s old city and across Israel and the Palestinian territories as news broke of the former pope’s death. Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa planned an official commemoration mass on Sunday and issued a statement of mourning.
He said that “Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has today departed this world for the house of the Heavenly Father. We pray for the repose of his soul.”
In the Gaza Strip, the Holy Family Church — Gaza City’s only Catholic church — paid tribute to Benedict.
Parish priest Gabriel Romanelli said that “people saw signs of his humility when he submitted his resignation.” He said that “this gave people the feeling that this is a humble and simple man with all the difficulties of the world, and he was an example to follow.”
About 1,000 Christians live in Hamas-ruled Gaza, a tiny fraction of the territory’s 2.3 million people. Most are Greek Orthodox, with Catholics making up about a quarter of the small community.
WARSAW, Poland — Political leaders in Poland have lauded Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s contribution to the church’s teaching, praising him as an outstanding theologian, modest person and friend to their country.
The Sigismund Bell in Krakow — one of Poland’s oldest and biggest church bells, used to mark events of national significance — tolled at noon. A special Mass in Benedict’s honor was planned at Krakow’s Wawel Castle Cathedral later Saturday.
President Andrzej Duda said on Twitter that the Benedict’s teaching was a “guide post among the many winding and deceptive paths of contemporary world. “
Duda’s office said he plans to attend Benedict funeral.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Benedict was a “great Catholic thinker, a spiritual authority, and a modest person who was nonetheless a person of very great format,” whose “spiritual and intellectual legacy will ever remain important to us.”
He noted that Benedict was close to his Polish-born predecessor, St. John Paul II, who remains a much-revered figure in Poland.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has described Pope Benedict XVI as “a prominent religious figure and statesman (and) a staunch defender of traditional Christian values.”
A telegram to Pope Francis published on the Kremline website said that, during Benedict’s papacy, full diplomatic relations were established between Russia and the Vatican “and relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches were developed.”
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, said that he “had the opportunity to testify to his deep love for Eastern Christianity and, in particular, sincere respect for the tradition of Russian Orthodoxy.”
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed his condolences on the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
The foreign ministry said Kishida also referred to the great contributions Pope Benedict made toward world peace. He said Japan was greatly moved by a message Benedict sent after the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster spiritually uplifting the people of Japan.
MARKTL AM INN, Germany — Church bells have rung out in the small Bavarian town where Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was born following the news of his death.
Bells at the St. Oswald church in Marktl am Inn near the Austrian border tolled on Saturday.
Marktl Mayor Benedikt Dittmann said that “the pope has been omnipresent since he was elected Pope Benedict” in 2005 and there were celebrations each year on his birthday.
He said that he was affected by the news of the retired pontiff’s death — “although it must be said that, according to his own statements, he has now been able to prepare for this stage for 10 years, in prayer and devotion.”
LONDON — Ireland’s president has paid tribute to the late Pope Benedict XVI, highlighting his interest in promoting peace in Northern Ireland.
President Michael D. Higgins said in a statement that “at this time of the return of war on our continent and in so many areas of the world, he will be remembered for his untiring efforts to find a common path in promoting peace and goodwill throughout the world, including a steadfast interest in peace in Northern Ireland.”
Higgins also praised Benedict for highlighting “the common purpose of the world’s major religions.”
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Eamon Martin, recalled Benedict’s “humility and gentleness” and praised the former pontiff’s reaction to the abuse scandal in the church. Martin recalled how after meeting with Irish bishops in 2010, Benedict issued a letter to Irish Catholics “expressing profound sorrow” for abuse victims before calling for urgent action to address the legacy of abuse.
STOCKHOLM — The head of the Lutheran Church of Sweden has expressed his sympathies with Catholics around the world.
Archbishop Martin Modeus wrote on Twitter that “our churches have different traditions and our ways of thinking have sometimes differed, but Benedict XVI had a great impact on the rapprochement of Lutherans and Catholics in the last 50 years.”
NEW YORK — A U.S. advocacy organization is mourning the death of a “true friend of the Jewish people’’ in Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
The American Jewish Committee said in a statement Saturday that “Benedict continued the path of reconciliation and friendship with world Jewry blazed by his predecessor, John Paul II.”
The organization noted that Benedict had “paid homage in Auschwitz” to the victims of the Holocaust and had made an official visit to Israel.
It said that “he condemned antisemitism as a sin against God and man, and he emphasized the unique relationship between Christianity and Judaism.’
BERLIN — Germany’s president is praising the late Pope Benedict XVI’s dedication to dialogue between Christian denominations and with other religions.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a message of condolences to Pope Francis that “the election of a pope from the motherland of the Reformation and an intellectual who had made the dialogue between faith and reason his life’s task was an important signal for many people around the world.”
Steinmeier said that the German-born pontiff “particularly cared about the unity of Christendom and the dialog of religions, the connection between religion and society.” He added that “he sought dialog with Jews and Muslims and with all Christian denominations worldwide.”
ROME — Italian President Sergio Mattarella said the death of the pope emeritus is a cause for grief for the entire country.
Mattarella said that “his sweetness and his wisdom had benefited our community and the entire international community.”
He added in a statement that Benedict “continued to serve the cause of his Church in his unique role of pope emeritus with humility and serenity.″ The president said that Benedict “interpreted with finesse the reasons of dialogue, of peace, of the dignity of the person, as well as the supreme interests of religions.”
VATICAN CITY — 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.
Francis was elected after Benedict resigned in 2013.
LONDON — The spiritual head of the Anglican church says that “in his life and ministry, Pope Benedict XVI directed people to Christ.”
The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote on Twitter: “I join with Pope Francis and all the Catholic Church in mourning his death. May he rest in Christ’s peace and rise in glory with all the Saints.”
OSLO, Norway — In predominantly Lutheran Norway, the Catholic bishop of Oslo, Bernt Ivar Eidsvig, called Benedict “the last great theologian of the past 100 years.”
Eidsvig told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that “He masters all the theological subjects. I cannot think of anyone else who does.”
ROME — Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni has called Pope Benedict XVI a “giant of faith and reason” that history will never forget.
In a statement, she praised his lifelong service to the church and ability to “speak to the hearts and minds of people with the spiritual, cultural and intellectual profundity of his magisterium.”
She said she offered Pope Francis her own personal condolences, and those of the government, in sharing “his pain and that of the entire ecclesial community.”
BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is paying tribute to the German-born Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as a “formative figure of the Catholic Church.”
Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, became the first German pope in centuries when he was elected in 2005.
Scholz said on Twitter Saturday that “as the ‘German’ pope, Benedict XVI was a special church leader for many, not just in this country.”
He said that “the world is losing a formative figure of the Catholic Church, a combative personality and a wise theologian.”
BERLIN — The governor of Benedict XVI’s native German region says that “we are mourning our Bavarian pope.”
Bavarian governor Markus Soeder said on Twitter Saturday that “with him, society is losing a persuasive representative of the Catholic Church and one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century.”
Soeder wrote that “many people in his homeland will remember him not just as pope, but also as a humble pastor.”
He noted that “at the same time, he also had to face responsibility for difficult phases in his work.”
The governor said that “he always carried his homeland in his heart.”
The head of the German Bishops’ Conference, Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing, said that “an impressive theologian and experienced shepherd is leaving us with the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.”
“We are mourning a personality who imparted hope and direction to the church even in difficult times,” Baetzing said in a statement. He voiced “great respect” for Benedict’s “courageous decision” to resign a decade ago.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican says Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has died. He was 95.
Benedict was the first pope in 600 years to resign. Benedict had become increasingly frail during his almost 10 years of retirement.
Benedict’s dramatic 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.
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