Former pope Benedict shared ‘great affinity’ with late Queen, says Cardinal

The Catholic Archbishop of Westminster spoke about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI after the Vatican said his health has worsened.

The Queen with Pope Benedict XVI
The Queen with Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI shared a “great affinity” with the late Queen, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster has said.

The 95-year-old former pope’s historic decision to resign due to age in 2013 will remain “an exception”, and he admired the Queen for continuing her royal duties until the end, according to Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

His comments came after the Vatican said the former pope’s health has worsened due to his age, and doctors are constantly monitoring his condition.

Papal visit to UK – Day Three
Former Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy O’Connor (3rd left) and current Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols (4th left) watch as Pope Benedict XVI leads a prayer vigil in London’s Hyde Park in 2010 (Fiona Hanson/PA) 

Speaking on Times Radio, Cardinal Nichols spoke about former pope Benedict’s legacy and his relationship with the Queen.

He said: “I think there was a great affinity between Pope Benedict and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

“When Benedict decided to come to this country, he decided that the first thing he had to do was visit the Queen. And she was 95, she held her office to the end and I think he admired that very much.

“It was a measure of his self-understanding and the difficulties he was getting into physically as well that he said no, it needs somebody else to do this.”

On Benedict’s decision to resign, Cardinal Nichols said: “This is the first time in 600 years, so who knows what might develop. I think it will remain an exception, myself.”

Papal visit to UK – Day Four
Pope Benedict XVI at the end of the Mass of Beatification for Cardinal Newman, celebrated in Cofton Park near Birmingham (Peter Nicholls/PA) 

The cardinal also described the former pope as “one of the great theologians of the 20th century”.

He said: “I met Pope Benedict on quite a number of occasions, and he was a very sensitive, a very thoughtful person, who was a great theologian.

“He will be remembered as one of the great theologians of the 20th century.

“But he was always so courteous. When he came to this country in 2011 he was described as ‘God’s Rottweiler’, but by the time he left I think he was considered to be everybody’s great uncle.

“There was a real gentleness about him, and. when I saw him just over a year ago – September last year – that hadn’t changed. He was very, very weak, but very bright and very alert and very with it.”

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