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World leaders and King Charles pay tribute to former pope nicknamed ‘God’s Rottweiler’

World leaders and King Charles have paid tribute to former pope Benedict XVI following his death at the age of 95.

The Vatican announced the former pontiff – who was the first to resign in some 600 years – had died on Saturday morning.

Pope Francis, who succeeded Benedict in 2013, described him as “kind” and “noble”, adding that he felt “gratitude to God for having gifted him to the Church and the world”.

As tributes poured in from around the world, mourners paid their respects in Benedict’s homeland of Bavaria, Germany.

The former pope was hailed as “one of the greatest theologians of his age” after he was given the nickname “God’s Rottweiler” during his life for his uncompromising conservative views.

Pope Benedict XVI during a meeting in his private library with Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornowall. Vatican 27 April, 2009  
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King Charles, then the Prince of Wales, with Benedict XVI in 2009. Pic: AP

In a message to Pope Francis following the death of his predecessor, the King said he received the news “with deep sadness”.

Charles spoke of meeting Benedict at the Vatican in 2009 and the following year when he became the second pope in history to visit the UK.

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During the trip, Benedict met Queen Elizabeth II in Edinburgh and made a speech at Westminster Hall.

Charles said he recalled the former pope’s “constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill to all people, and to strengthen the relationship between the global Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described Benedict as a “great theologian” whose UK visit was “an historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also tweeted a tribute, saying Benedict’s state visit was a “historic and joyous moment for Catholics in Britain”.

Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI (R) walk through the gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland September 16, 2010.
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Benedict met Queen Elizabeth II during his visit to the UK in 2010

‘A combative personality’

US President Joe Biden said he had “the privilege of spending time with Pope Benedict at the Vatican in 2011 and will always remember his generosity and welcome as well as our meaningful conversation”.

“He will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith,” Mr Biden added.

“May his focus on the ministry of charity continue to be an inspiration to us all.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said Benedict had “worked with all his soul and intelligence for a more fraternal world”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also paid tribute to the former pontiff, who was the first German pope in centuries after he was elected in 2005.

Tributes pour in for former pope – latest updates

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The legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

Mr Scholz said “the world is losing a formative figure of the Catholic Church, a combative personality and a wise theologian”.

In a statement honouring Benedict, Irish President Michael D Higgins said: “At this time of the return of war on our continent and in so many areas of the world, he will be remembered for his untiring efforts to find a common path in promoting peace and goodwill throughout the world, including a steadfast interest in peace in Northern Ireland.”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar added: “Leading the Catholic Church for almost a decade, the son of a police officer and a cook, the first German elected as pope in one thousand years, he was ultimately a ‘humble worker in vineyard of the Lord’.”

Pope Benedict XVI during his summer vacation, looks at the 'Centro Cadore' lake in Domegge, Lorenzago di Cadore, in Italy's Dolomite mountains
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Benedict pictured during his summer holiday in Italy in 2010. Pic: AP

Benedict’s body to lie in state

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales hailed Benedict as “one of the great theologians of the 20th century”.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: “I remember with particular affection the remarkable Papal Visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.”

 Former Pope Benedict (R) is greeted by Pope Francis during a ceremony to mark his 65th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood at the Vatican June 28, 2016
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Benedict with his successor Pope Francis in 2016

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also described Benedict as “one of the greatest theologians of his age”.

He said: “In 2013 Pope Benedict took the courageous and humble step to resign the papacy, the first pope to do so since the fifteenth century. In making this choice freely he acknowledged the human frailty that affects us all.

“In his retirement in Rome he has led a life of prayer and now he has gone to the eternal rest granted by the Father.”

The Vatican said Benedict’s body will lie in state in St Peter’s Basilica from Monday.

Pope Francis will preside over Benedict’s funeral Mass in St Peter’s Square on Thursday – an unprecedented event in which a current pope will celebrate the life of his predecessor.

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