VILNIUS - The death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is a great loss for the Church and for all the faithful, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Tuesday after paying tribute to the late pope and signing a book of condolences at the Apostolic Nunciature in Vilnius.
"We offer our condolences over the death of Benedict XVI. He was a great thinker but also a humble, simple man who was close to the people, close to his students, and he upheld the traditional values developed over the centuries, refined the Church's teaching and tried to adapt it to the present day. At the same time, he remained true to very strong principles," the president told reporters.
"I think it’s a great loss for the Church, for the Catholic faith and, of course, for each one of us, for each and every person in the world. We will miss Benedict XVI's simplicity and his modesty," he added.
Nauseda will attend Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's funeral on Thursday.
Pope Francis, who replaced Benedict XVI after his resignation, will lead the funeral service in Saint Peter's square in Rome and afterwards Benedict XVI will be buried in the crypt under St. Peter's Basilica.
Apostolic Nuncio to Lithuania Archbishop Petar Antun Rajic says he had the "honor and privilege" of serving as the Pope's assistant at the Vatican for five years.
"My duty at that time was to accompany heads of state, heads of government, dignitaries, bishops, others, who came to the pope, to visit him in private audiences to his private library," he said.
Rajic remembers Benedict XVI as a modest, humble and deeply religious man.
"He was a true gentleman," the nuncio said. "Being in his presence was being in the presence of a holy man, a saint."
Benedict XVI died on Saturday at the age of 95. He led the Catholic Church for eight years from April, 2005 to March, 2013. He became the first pontiff to apologize for scandals around the world, expressing "deep regret" and meeting victims in person.
But while he took important steps to fight child abuse committed by clergymen, he also came under fire for his failure to prevent the Church's cover-up.
Nicknamed "God's Rottweiler", Benedict XVI had a reputation of a rather conservative thinker on theological matters.
However, Rajic says the late pope was not affected by such criticism.
„Even the Lord Jesus was criticized during his time. He (Benedict XVI - BNS) was faithful to the Gospel, to the teachings of Jesus Christ," the nuncio said.