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Pope Francis, world leaders pay tribute to Benedict XVI

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Pope Francis has led tributes to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who has died, aged 95.

Benedict had been “noble” and “kind” and “gifted” to the Catholic Church, the Pope said.

Benedict resigned in 2013 because of poor health. His funeral service will be held at the Vatican on January 5.

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The 265th leader of the Catholic Church, Benedict was a controversial figure. While some mourners hailed him as a resolute defender of the faith, others criticised his tenure for a failure to tackle allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

But hours after the announcement of his death, Pope Francis praised his “dearest” predecessor, emphasising “his sacrifices offered for the good of the Church”.

In the United States (US), the White House released a statement from President Joe Biden. Recalling spending time with Benedict at the Vatican in 2011, Biden said that he would “be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith”.

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Leaders of countries with large Catholic populations across the world also paid tribute, with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hailing Benedict as a “giant of faith and reason” and “a great man whom history will not forget”.

In Brazil, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said he wished “comfort to the faithful and admirers of the Holy Father”.

In the United Kingdom (UK), King Charles III said that he received news of the former Pope’s death with “deep sadness”.

United Nations (UN) chief Antonio Guterres praised the former pontiff for his “tenacious commitment to non-violence and peace”.

Benedict was born in Bavaria as Joseph Ratzinger and in 1977 was appointed archbishop of Munich.

Reaction to his death in the city was varied, with one resident describing him as “conservative” while taking pride in the fact that he was German.

Another was more critical. “I thought when he came to power he would finally bring some fresh air into the Catholic Church and bring an end to celibacy. But unfortunately, he disappointed me,” Christa Herwig told Reuters news agency.

For much of his papacy, the Catholic Church faced allegations, legal claims and official reports into decades of child abuse by priests.

Earlier this year, the former pope acknowledged that errors had been made in the handling of abuse cases while he was archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982.

The admission came after a German legal probe into the Catholic Church alleged that he failed to act over four child sex abuse cases.

In a letter released by the Vatican, the former pontiff asked forgiveness for any “grievous fault” but denied personal wrongdoing.—BBC

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