Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is being remembered in Canada for his intellect and theological influence on the Catholic Church he led for nearly nine years.
Cardinal Thomas Collins praised the 95-year-old former pontiff, who died Saturday at his home in the Vatican, for his astounding intellect.
“His writings will help guide disciples of Jesus in the centuries that lie before us,” Collins — who also serves as Archbishop of Toronto — said in a statement. “As pope, he led the universal church with wisdom and holiness, providing a clear and loving message of how our faith can inspire us and guide us through the storms of life’s journey.”
At a Saturday afternoon mass, Collins told the faithful that Benedict’s theological work showed that he was “in love with the Lord”
“There was a fire and a beauty and a glory in his teaching, this man of the word of god could touch the hearts of those who heard him and those who read his writings,” he said.
Bishop of Calgary William McGrattan said Benedict’s writing drew on a deep knowledge of scripture and the work of other theologians, but remained accessible to many Catholics.
“I think Pope Benedict will be known for his teaching, for the contribution that he made to the church’s reflection on scripture and theology,” he said in an interview. “He was very simple, very direct, and could explain things that are very profound in very simple, intelligible ways.”
The German intellectual, theologian and prolific writer was known as a reluctant pope who became the first in 600 years to resign.
His dramatic exit in 2013 paved the way for the election of Pope Francis, who will preside over Benedict’s funeral Thursday, marking an unprecedented moment in the history of the papacy with a reigning pope eulogizing over a retired one. Collins said he plans to attend the service.
While Francis has taken different positions than his predecessor on a number of issues, the reigning pope has said he appreciated the presence of the pope emeritus at the Vatican, describing him as being like a “wise grandfather.”
Monseigneur Christian Lépine, the Archbishop of Montreal, said Benedict was a man of faith who sought dialogue with those who had different convictions.
“He was a man of conviction, but at the same time he always wanted to be a man of dialogue, conviction I would say was first, but dialogue was not far behind.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also praised Benedict’s work as a theologian.
“His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI dedicated his life to serving his faith. He was an accomplished theologian and scholar, and he was an inspiration to millions,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter. “My thoughts are with Catholics around the world and all those who are mourning his passing.”
McGrattan, who is the vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said before his election as pope, Benedict saw the need for the church to address sexual abuse in a more transparent, forthright way. And as the cardinal responsible for the Doctrine of the Faith, he said Benedict changed the way the church approached sexual abuse allegations.
“He called it an ‘open wound’ on different occasions, he met with victims of sexual abuse and, I think those not only gestures, but concrete actions was the beginning, under his pontificate, for the church to begin to deal with this, and Pope Francis is continuing in that same path,” McGrattan said.
After his retirement, Benedict was criticized in an independent report commissioned by the German church for his handling of four cases of abuse when he was archbishop of Munich.
Joseph Ratzinger was elected the 265th pope in 2005.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2022.
— With files from The Associated Press, Mathieu Paquette, Élo Gauthier Lamothe and Jordan Omstead.