Archbishop Jason Gordon hailed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – who died on Saturday at age 95 – as one of the brightest European thinkers.
He was offering condolences in a Facebook post after learning of the passing of Benedict at his Vatican residence in Rome, Italy.
Gordon said, “He was very special in the history of our church. A great light and one of the brightest European thinkers in our time. He laid the intellectual foundations that Pope Francis continues to build upon. In TT, let us offer mass and pray today for the repose of his soul.”
In a video later Saturday evening, Gordon said, "He's a phenomenal man, a great light, an intellectual, a man of deep faith and deep conviction. He will be missed greatly."
Gordon said Benedict was considered one of the leading intellectual lights in Europe and the world and as Pope he displayed "profound leadership."
"In his people's statements, he really paved the way for us to really understand charity in a different and a more biblical way which he recovers the whole understanding of mercy and Pope Francis' papacy," he said.
He added that Benedict also brought to the front encyclical documents that contain the integral human development that was recovered from Pope Leo VI giving a new drive to develop each and every person.
Leela Ramdeen, chair of The Catholic Commission of Social Justice described Benedict XVI as, “One of our greatest theologians in our time.”
She said, “A lot of the news today is focusing on the scandals in relation to priest abuse and how he handled it. I think in his life, he did a lot of good and I am hoping that after 95 years on this earth and his contribution to the theology of our church that they will remember the good that he did.”
Ramdeen recalled meeting Benedict in 2009 while representing the Bishops of the Caribbean at the Vatican. She said this was the first international conference at the Vatican and theme was Life, Family and Development: The Role of Women in the Promotion of Human Rights.
“Afterwards, we had a private audience with him and listening to him and his concerns for family life and the breakup of the family, what we need to do when we go back to our respective countries to help build and strengthen family life,” said Ramdeen.
She said strengthening family life is one of the greatest challenges she and her team had to face and she repeated that she hopes people remember Benedict for the good he did like spearheading these conferences.
Ramdeen said she never got to have one-on-one interactions with Benedict, but she will always cherish being a part of the private audiences and shaking his hand.
“Most of the time we sat in our private audience in the big room at the Vatican and there were a lot of stairs,” she laughed, “But we listened to him and his presentation to us to end the conference and tell us women that we have a role to play in promoting human rights.”
She said the speech he gave was “very uplifting” and it made want to come back to TT and get on the ground running to achieve the goals set out since she now felt extremely empowered.
Benedict was the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from the papacy in February 2013. This meant the global Roman Catholic Church had two Popes since Pope Francis was elected as his successor. But as Benedict was not an acting Pope, he adopted the title of Pope Emeritus which acknowledged his existence and tenure as a living former head of the church.
There is also an Oscar-nominated film The Two Popes, an adaptation of Benedict’s entry to the Vatican, his resignation and Francis’ appointment. It was released in 2019 and gives insight into the notable experiences Benedict’s had during his time at the Vatican.
Benedict ascended to the papacy as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger after his predecessor St John Paul II died in 2005. He was seen as "the reluctant Pope" who had to deal with a sex abuse scandal that dogged the church for decades. He stepped in the aftermath of revelations made by his butler who had stolen personal papers and shared them with a journalist. The documents that "exposed power struggles, intrigue and allegations of corruption and homosexual liaisons in the highest levels of the Catholic Church," reported the Associated Press.
"In between crises, Benedict pursued his single-minded vision to rekindle faith in a world that he frequently lamented seemed to think it could do without God."