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Biden remembers Benedict XVI as ‘an inspiration to us all’

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President Joe Biden paid tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on Saturday, calling him “a renowned theologian” and “an inspiration to us all.”

“Jill and I join Catholics around the world, and so many others, in mourning the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,” Biden said following the Vatican’s announcement that the pope emeritus had died at the age of 95.

Biden is the second Catholic president in U.S. history.

“I 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,” the president said Dec. 31.

As vice president, Biden made a surprise visit to the Vatican and held a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.

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

“As he remarked during his 2008 visit to the White House, ‘the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity,’” Biden said. “May his focus on the ministry of charity continue to be an inspiration to us all.”

Other prominent Catholic politicians also offered tributes to Benedict XVI.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi praised Benedict XVI, saying: “I join our fellow Catholics in mourning the passing of Pope Benedict XVI: a leader whose devotion, scholarship, and message stirred the hearts of people of all faiths.”

Joe Donnelly, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, issued a statement reflecting on Benedict XVI’s first address from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, saying: “He set the tone for a papacy by labeling himself as a ‘simple, humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.’”

The Vatican announced Saturday that the funeral Mass of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 5, in St. Peter’s Square.

Benedict XVI will be buried in the crypt under St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis will preside over the funeral, which, in keeping with Benedict’s wishes, “will be carried out under the sign of simplicity,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

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Biden remembers Benedict XVI as ‘an inspiration to us all’