Archbishop in Sierra Leone Remembers “good grandpa” in Tribute to Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI during his arrival in the Lisbon airport on May 11, 2010 | M.Mazur/

The Archbishop of Freetown in Sierra Leone has paid tribute to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, describing him as a loving grandfather of the Church who left a treasure for upcoming theologians.

In his homily at the Requiem Mass of the former Pope, Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles described the late Pope emeritus as a distinguished Catholic Church leader, a Pastor, and Theologian who had led a quiet life following his resignation in 2013.

“Sierra Leoneans would say he was a good grandpa. In his respect, we are gathered here not so much to mourn his death as to celebrate his life; a life of a grandpa of the Church as a distinguished Church leader, pastor, and Theologian,” Archbishop Tamba Charles said during the Wednesday, January 4 Requiem Mass.

He added, about the Church leader who passed on on New Year eve, and was laid to rest on Thursday, January 6, “We mourn his passing because we have lost a great spiritual leader and pastor.”

The Archbishop of Freetown described Pope emeritus Benedict XVI as a humble Church leader, saying, “Whenever he met you dressed in your Clergy cassock, he would always be the first one to greet you and he would say, in Italian, ‘good day father.’”


“I remember being in Rome for a few months and the first time he greeted me I mistook him for one of the Bishops working in the Roman Curiae because he was wearing a very simple cassock. It was after he had walked away that someone who knew him told us that the one who had greeted us was Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) … That was in 1991,” the Sierra Leonean Archbishop said.

He recalled that at a time when the late Pope was dealing with the cases of many theologians, especially those of liberation theology, he did not carry any superiority about him.

In Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Tamba Charles said, he saw a servant of the Church who was determined to carry out the duties entrusted to him by his authorities. 

He recounted having met the 265th Pope several other times, and the Pope displaying a great sense of humility each time.

One such time was when the late former Pontiff was invited to the launch of a college that the Archbishop was attending.

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“On those occasions, I had the privilege to observe him closely because we had a very small dining hall that would take just about 30 persons. Once again, he used to come dressed in a very simple black cassock,” he said.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, the Archbishop of Freetown said, had “very sharp penetrating eyes reflective of his intellectual acumen.”

“Cardinal Ratzinger was an intellectual giant,” Archbishop Tamba Charles said, and added, “On all those occasions, I also noticed that he observed a lot and spoke very little, even with those with whom he was seated at the table. I always wondered what was going on in his mind as he observed us young Priests in that dining room.”

Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger had established himself as a distinguished professor of Theology and had authored many books, which treated almost all aspects of Catholic theology from creation to eschatology, the Archbishop recalled during January 4 Requiem Mass.

The late Pope also dealt a lot with subjects related to Biblical studies, Archbishop Tamba Charles further said, adding, “Now that he has died, I am sure that many students who have very good knowledge of German, because he wrote many of his books in German, will write their doctoral dissertations on the seminar ideas in his writings.”


Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign, according to the Sierra Leonean Archbishop, had shocked the world “because he was the first Pope to do so in more than 600 years.” 

“But he admitted that he could no longer continue serving in the Papal office as Pope and universal pastor. And so, with all honesty and sincerity, he decided to take his leave,” Archbishop Tamba Charles said, and added, “After his resignation, he lived quietly for nearly a decade in the Vatican, before it pleased God to call him to eternity at the age of 95.”

He hailed the late Pontiff for teaching others about the love and mercy of God, saying, “As a professor of theology in several universities in Germany, as Archbishop, and later as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and finally as pastor of the universal Church, he did not only profess faith and the love and mercy of God on behalf of the Church but also taught others the same; he carried out those services in the Church with deep faith and humility.”

“It is reported that the Pope’s last words before his death were ‘Jesus I love you.’ Therefore, let us entrust him to the love and mercy of God, praying that he may find in Jesus Christ, a merciful judge and someone who will open for him the gates to paradise,” Archbishop Tamba Charles said on January 4.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.