ROME (MEOR) – Methodists around the world reacted to the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who died on Saturday at the age of 95. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church on 19 April 2005, taking the name of Benedict XVI to honor St. Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, and Pope Benedict XV. Pope Benedict XVI reigned for 7 years before shocking the world by voluntarily resigning as pope on 28 February 2013 due to declining health.
The World Methodist Council issued a statement, saying “together with other World Communions, the World Methodist Council extends its condolences to His Holiness Pope Francis and the entire Catholic Church on the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.” The statement further noted, that “his support of informed theological dialogue between Churches, including the dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church, was a hallmark of his pontificate. Pope Benedict’s impact on Christian unity through prayer and theological discourse is an enduring legacy of his ministry.”
The Rev. Dr. Jong Chun Park, the president of the World Methodist Council, wrote that Pope Benedict Emeritus XVI’s “most significant contribution has been the spiritual and theological retrieval of the uniqueness of Jesus. His magnum opus Jesus of Nazareth, is the living witness of Jesus ‘who is close to the Father’s heart’ (John 1:18).”
A statement from the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, the official presence of the World Methodist Council in Rome, recalled that “Pope Benedict’s life was marked by both prayer and action for Christian unity. A keen theological thinker, Pope Benedict will be remembered by Methodists for his encouragement of ecumenical theological dialogue, especially the international Methodist-Catholic dialogue. He welcomed the Methodist accession to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine on Justification, telling World Methodist Council leaders prior to the 2006 Methodist Statement of Association of the JDDJ that “[joining the JDDJ] would assist in contributing to the healing and reconciliation we ardently desire, and would be a significant step towards the stated goal of full visible unity in faith” (Statement of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Representatives of the World Methodist Council, 9 December 2005).”
The Rev. Matthew A. Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, noted, “Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a committed ecumenist who sought Christian unity through prayer and theological dialogue between Churches. He never shied away from candid conversation about serious church-dividing issues, while also encouraging further study and reflection between Methodists and Catholics in our joint pursuit for Christian unity.”
The Revd Graham Thompson and Mr. Anthony Boateng, the president and vice president of the Conference of the Methodist Church in Britain respectively, said, “we share in the sadness of our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers, at the news of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. We give thanks for the way in which Benedict responded to God’s call on his life and served the Church as a theologian, pastor and leader. We continue to pray for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and around the world. We hope that our common witness might lead all to know the love of God and that our shared mission may bring us closer together in unity, that the world might know reconciliation and peace.”
The Revd David Nixon, the president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, wrote, “Pope Benedict had a profound influence on the life of the Church. His life was deeply rooted in God, and in his teaching he encouraged all to a closer relationship with Jesus in their everyday lives. He was a man of prayer and an insightful theologian. We pray for comfort for all who mourn his loss.”
The Rev. Dr. Edgardo Colon-Emeric, the dean of Duke Divinity School and Methodist co-chair of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission, wrote, “the death of Benedict XVI is one that touches deeply all who dream, pray, and work for the unity of the church. His Christ-centered theological vision, love of scripture, knowledge of the church fathers, and passion for the liturgy, resonated strongly with many Methodist ecumenists and encouraged us to not settle for facile agreements—doctrine matters.”
The funeral for Pope Benedict XVI will be on Thursday, 5 January at 09:30 (Rome) in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City State.
Photo: Pope Benedict XVI in Glasgow on 16 September 2010 © M. Mazur/www.thepapalvisit.org.uk