LA Archbishop José Gomez Hails `Beautiful Man' Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI's arrival in his papal car for a meeting with members of the Taize Community in St Peter's Square.

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez paid tribute to former Pope Benedict XVI Saturday after the 95-year-old's death was announced by the Vatican.

"Our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has gone to heaven. In this moment, as we mourn his loss, we celebrate his life, because it was a life given in service to Jesus Christ," Gomez said.

"I know there will be more for me to reflect on about this beautiful man and great figure in the Catholic Church of our times. But in this moment, I find myself giving thanks to God for his witness and recalling the words that he spoke in his inaugural homily: `The purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. ... There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him," Gomez's statement continued.

"May Our Lady wrap him in the mantle of her love, and may the angels lead him into paradise, and may he rest in peace."

Benedict, who was elected pope in 2005 and resigned in 2013 due to health problems, died after a period of ill health, the Vatican announced Saturday without providing further details about his death. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday in St. Peter's Square.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles and Gomez's predecessor, also released a statement Saturday praising Benedict.

"He was a grand gift from God to the Church, and his many years as a priest, a theologian, an Archbishop, and a Pope, created a tapestry of holiness, wisdom, compassion, and integrity," Mahony said.

"... As Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith beginning in 1981 he blended sound theology with compassionate pastoral practice. Over the years he was Prefect I had several occasions to write him a personal, non-official letter, about some pastoral issue in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He welcomed informal consultation about issues affecting people's lives without submitting a formal case or petition. He saw us as brother Bishops and he would always send back a fraternal letter offering some possible avenues forward to resolve the matter."

Pope Benedict was criticized by some for his handling of the Catholic church's massive child sex-abuse scandal, but Mahony defended him on that score.

"When the clergy sexual misconduct scandal erupted he was very helpful in getting norms and regulations changed in order to handle these cases more quickly for the protection of young people and the processes needed to deal with clerics who had been found guilty of their crimes and sins," Mahony wrote. "As Pope, he helped change Canon Law to assist in the entire process more rapidly."

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