Pope Benedict, as a theologian, cardinal, incumbent and then pope emeritus, was a defining figure in the life of our church, Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, said on Saturday.
“Even during years of weakness and ill-health, he radiated serenity,” Erdő wrote in a statement. “The greatest Catholic theologian of our time has left us.” “He felt and understood the signs of the times. He carried the 2nd Vatican Council in his heart,” the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church added. Benedict was aware of the dangers facing the Church, Europe and humanity, Erdő said, but he also saw new vistas and reason for hope.
In his last great encyclical (Caritas in veritate), Benedict saw truth as love manifested in society and he proclaimed the truth of Christ’s love in that spirit. The Cardinal also referred to Benedict as “a true European”. “He knew how to listen to others’ opinions with patience … He was a man of dialogue,” he wrote.
Erdő added that Benedict had “understood the problems and joys” of Hungarians, and had followed the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest “with love and interest”. He cited Pope Francis as saying: “We all feel his spiritual presence … his theological work still bears fruit and is effective.”
In his first papal mass, Benedict spoke of Jesus, who, as a good shepherd, sought out and carried lost sheep — humanity itself — on his shoulders, he wrote. As Jesus’s “collaborator in this great mission … we trust that Pope Benedict will complete this great work with his prayers from the House of the Heavenly Father,” Erdő added.
The Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (MKPK) also paid tribute to Benedict, saying his knowledge and wisdom had guided entire generations “The members of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference were touched to hear that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has completed his earthly journey and returned to the house of the Heavenly Father,” the MKPK said in a statement. “The entire life of Joseph Ratzinger, later known as Benedict XVI, was a testimony to his unwavering personal faith for all of us,” they added.
The MKPK called on “all people of good will” to remember Benedict in their prayers and urged Catholics “to pray for our Holy Father and the whole Church”.