Archbishop Martin marks death of Pope Benedict XVI reflecting on his admiration for Irish missionaries

Archbishop Eamon Martin has offered condolences on the death of Pope Benedict XVI reflecting on how he had greatly admired the early Irish missionaries who had spread Christianity throughout Europe.

The Derry-born primate Primate of All Ireland said: "I am saddened to hear of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

"At this time of mourning in the Catholic Church throughout the world, we remember his gentle soul in prayer, asking God, in His great mercy, to forgive his sins and human failings, while rewarding his generous service and complete dedication to the Gospel and to the Church.

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"On behalf of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, and the faithful across Ireland, I extend sympathy to Pope Francis, to the family members and carers of the Pope Emeritus, and to all those in his native Germany and around the globe who loved him and will mourn his loss."

Pope Benedict XVI

Archbishop Martin referred to Pope Benedict's admiration for the Irish missionaries who spread the Gospel in Europe from the sixth century onwards.

The 95-year-old Bavarian, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in 1927, spent many years in Regensburg and would have been aware of the Donegal missionary Muiredhach Mac Robartaigh’s role in founding the first ever Schottenklöster [Irish monastery] in the town on the banks of the Danube in the 11th century.

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Archbishop Martin said: "Pope Benedict XVI’s interest in Ireland goes back to his friendship with the late Archbishop Kevin McNamara of Dublin when both were young theology professors.

"Former students of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, also remember fondly his visit there as cardinal.

"He often admired the huge contribution of generations of Irish men and women to the Church, and to humanity, and he took a special interest in the work of early Celtic missionaries like Saint Columbanus to the spread the Gospel in Europe and to Europe’s spiritual identity. He followed closely, and prayerfully, the peace process as it matured."

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The late Pope was, said Archbishop Martin, 'an outstanding teacher and academic whose impressive intellectual ability, combined with clarity of expression, made of him one of the greatest theologians of our era'.

"Now that his earthly journey has ended, I pray that, by the help of God’s mercy, the saints will go out to meet him and welcome him into his heavenly home. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis," said Archbishop Martin.