Pope Benedict death: King Charles sends message of condolence to Pope Francis

King Charles III has sent a message of condolence to Pope Francis following the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

The former pope died on Saturday morning (31 December) at the age of 95, the Vatican announced.

The King and Queen Consort sent their “continued good wishes” for Pope Francis’ pontificate and remembered his meeting with the late Benedict more than a decade ago.

The message, released in full on the royal family’s official website, reads: “Your Holiness, I received the news of the death of your predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with deep sadness.

“I remember with fondness my meeting with His Holiness during my visit to the Vatican in 2009.

“His visit to the UK in 2010 was important in strengthening the relations between the Holy See and the UK.

“I also recall his constant efforts to promote peace and goodwill to all people, and to strengthen the relationship between the global Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church,” the King continued.

“My wife and I send you our continued good wishes for your own pontificate.”

The message was signed off “Charles R”.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni released a statement and said: “With pain I inform that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesia Monastery in the Vatican. Further information will be released as soon as possible.”

Benedict’s remains will be on public display in St Peter’s Basilica from Monday (2 January) for the faithful to pay their final respects.

Tributes poured in for the late former pope from religious and political figures, including prime minister Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Keir Starmer, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Sunak tweeted that Benedict was “a great theologian” whose 2010 visit to the UK was a “historic moment for both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout our country”.

Meanwhile, Nichols said in his statement: “I remember with particular affection the remarkable Papal Visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.

“He was through and through a gentleman, through and through a scholar, through and through a pastor, through and through a man of God – close to the Lord and always his humble servant.”

Benedict led the Catholic Church from 2005 until his resignation in 2013. On Wednesday, Pope Francis revealed he was “very ill” and his health deteriorated over the past few days.