NEW YORK — Former Pope Benedict XVI was remembered around the world and across the city’s Catholic faithful Saturday as a low-key luminary, steadfast servant and beacon of interfaith dialogue following his death at age 95.
“He will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith,” said a statement from President Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic. “May his focus on the ministry of charity continue to be an inspiration to us all.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic, recalled in a statement how she was often moved by Benedict’s teachings, describing him as a “global leader whose devotion, scholarship and hopeful message stirred the hearts of people of all faiths.”
The conservative German scholar’s death came at the close of a long goodbye. Benedict retired in 2013, citing poor health, and his condition deteriorated rapidly in recent days.
In Manhattan, mourners at St. Patrick’s Cathedral echoed the city’s two most prominent Catholic leaders in praising the departed pope. A portrait of Benedict stood on the altar as the faithful paid their respects.
“I wish him peace,” said Michael Thomas of Queens, a serviceman stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “He will be welcomed through the gates of heaven.”
Connor DeSantis, 32, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, described himself as a fan of the late pontiff.
“He was breaking barriers, making things more inclusive for everyone,” he said at the Midtown cathedral. “It’s been a really sad day, but looking at what he did made me smile.”
Both Cardinal Timothy Dolan and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg praised Benedict for wrapping the city in an interfaith embrace in 2008, when the late church leader became the first pope to visit a Jewish place of worship in the U.S., appearing at a synagogue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
“This Archdiocese remembers with love his personal visit here in 2008,” said Dolan. “The human family grieves the passing of this erudite, wise, and holy man, who spoke the truth with love. The family of the Church especially mourns his death, while grateful for the gift he was of a good shepherd and Holy Father.”
Dolan asked for every parish in the archdiocese to offer a Mass in memory of Benedict.
Bloomberg, who is Jewish, tweeted how the synagogue appearance underscored Benedict’s “commitment to healing and peace,” while praising his leadership in confronting climate change and supporting environmental protection.
Brooklyn Bishop Robert Brennan recalled the late pontiff as a “great teacher” and an inspiration.
“A man of tremendous intellect and holiness, who loved God and served generously throughout his whole life,” said Brennan.
World leaders hailed the pope as well, while church bells rang out in the small Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn, where the pope was born.
Pope Francis praised his predecessor as “such a noble person, so kind,” expressing appreciation for “all the good he accomplished, and above all, for his witness of faith and prayer.”
“Only God knows the value and the power of his intercession, of the sacrifices he offered for the good of the Church,” Francis added in a statement.