Pope Benedict XVI: Condolences pour in from Middle East

Pope Benedict XVI: Condolences pour in from Middle East
During his time as pope, Benedict visited countries including Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
4 min read
03 January, 2023
Pope Benedict, 95, passed away in a monastery in the Vatican grounds on Saturday [TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty-archive]

Condolences have poured in from the Middle East and around the world after former Pope Benedict XVI died on Saturday.

Benedict, 95, passed away in a monastery on Vatican grounds. He stepped down as pontiff unexpectedly in 2013 after eight years at the helm of the Catholic Church, citing declining health.

During his time as pope, Benedict visited countries including Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.

Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of Iraq's Kurdistan Region, on Saturday said he was "saddened to learn" of the retired pope's death.

"He'll be remembered as a trusted friend whose prayers and counsel focused on peace between peoples of all faiths in the Middle East," tweeted Barzani.

"My thoughts are with the Catholic people in the Kurdistan Region, Iraq and beyond."

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Former Kurdistan Region president Masoud Barzani said he sends his "heartfelt condolences" to current pope Francis and to "all Catholics around the globe" for Benedict's death.

"May he rest in eternal peace," Masoud said on Twitter on Saturday.

The foreign ministry in Lebanon, where around a third of the population is Christian, also expressed condolences in a statement reported by the official National News Agency on Sunday.

"The ministry also seizes on this occasion to recall the historic visit that His Holiness made for three days in 2012 to Lebanon, and the relief it left in the hearts of Lebanese people in general," the statement said.

It added that this was "given the love and appreciation he brought with him for our country as a model and message of hope and peace for all humanity in its religious diversity".

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Dubai ruler and Vice President Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum expressed condolences to Pope Francis in separate cables, official news agency WAM said on Sunday.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa on Sunday also sent Francis, Benedict's successor as pontiff, a cable, the official Bahrain News Agency reported.

Francis made a historic first-ever papal trip to the country in 2022.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power as Israeli prime minister on Thursday, tweeted on Saturday: "On behalf of all the citizens of Israel, I send my deep condolences to the Christian world on the passing of Pope Benedict XVI."

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted that it was with "great sadness" that he learned of Benedict's death.

"I offer my deepest condolences to Catholics and others around the world who were inspired by his life of prayer and tenacious commitment to non-violence and peace," he said on Saturday.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was "saddened" to learn of the late ex-pontiff's death.

"He was a great theologian whose UK visit in 2010 was a historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country," he tweeted on Saturday.

Other world leaders, from Joe Biden to Vladimir Putin, have also paid tribute to Benedict.

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On Monday, tens of thousands of people paid their respects to Benedict at the Vatican, at the start of three days of lying-in-state at St Peter's Basilica before his funeral.

They began queueing before dawn to view the German theologian's body, which was transferred early on Monday from the monastery in the Vatican grounds where he died.

"I arrived at 6 am, it seemed normal to come and pay homage to him after all he did for the church," said an Italian nun, sister Anna-Maria, near the front of the queue that snaked around the edge of the vast St Peter's Square.

Benedict was the first pope in six centuries to step down from his post.

Pope Francis will lead the funeral on Thursday in St Peter's Square before his remains are placed in the tombs beneath the basilica.

He will be buried in the tomb which held Pope John Paul II's remains until 2011, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said on Monday.

Agencies contributed to this story.