MANILA, Philippines?Pope Benedict XVI hailed the late former President Corazon Aquino for her ?courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people? as he conveyed his condolences to her family.
In a telegram sent to Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the Pope was ?deeply saddened? to learn of Aquino?s death.
Her family said in a statement that she died ?peacefully? early Saturday from cardio-respiratory arrest, after her battle with cancer.
Bertone said that the Pope remembered Aquino as a woman of ?deep and unwavering faith? and that the Holy Father prayed that the same faith and hope would be abundantly fulfilled.
?Recalling President Aquino?s courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people, her firm rejection of violence and intolerance, and her contribution to the rebuilding of a just and cohesive political order in her beloved homeland, (his) Holiness commends her noble soul to the eternal mercies of God our Heavenly Father,? the telegram said.
Aquino was propelled into the political spotlight in 1986, leading millions of Filipinos in protests against the corrupt regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Outpouring of graces
The Pope also extended his blessings to the Filipino people.
?Invoking upon all the Filipino people an outpouring of Divine Graces, the Holy Father cordially imparts his apostolic blessing to all taking part in the Mass of Christian Burial, as a pledge of consolation, strength and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ,? Bertone said.
The Vatican secretary of state told Rosales that the Pope was asking the Manila archbishop to convey his condolences not only to the Aquino family but also to Philippine officials.
?The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mrs. Corazon Aquino and he asks you to convey to her family and the government authorities his heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his prayers for her eternal rest,? the telegram read.
The text of Bertone?s telegram to the Manila archbishop was posted on the website of the Holy See?s press office?s daily bulletin.
UN secretary general
Other world leaders sent their messages honoring Aquino.
?[I] pay tribute to the former President?s exceptional courage and pivotal role in the restoration and consolidation of democracy in the Philippines,? said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban said ?Aquino will be remembered as a beacon of democracy not only in the Philippines but also around the world.?
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said ?Aquino?s contributions to the development of the country and tireless devotion to peace, stability and democracy? for the Filipino people ?are well recognized throughout the world and will always be remembered and cherished by all of us with admiration and respect.?
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said he learned ?with deep sorrow? the passing of Aquino whom he described as ?a world-renowned advocate of democracy, peace and women?s empowerment.?
?Her Excellency Aquino will be remembered for her great contributions during her presidency and beyond toward democracy in the Republic of the Philippines and throughout the region,? he said.
In his own message, Rosales called on Filipinos to pause in prayer and thank God for Aquino.
?Cory Aquino was said to have wrestled with herself and conscience before deciding to offer herself as an alternative to a harsh dictatorship,? he said.
?And when finally, crowned with the people?s trust, she even suffered more when in the process of guiding the country, countless attempts were put to destabilize the people?s fledgling newly regained democracy,? he added.
Rosales said it was up to Filipinos to live up to what Aquino and her martyred husband, former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., did for the nation.
?Ninoy?s sacrifice for a dream for the Filipino made Corazon C. Aquino. Cory Aquino?s simplicity and fidelity to a dream to guide the people complete the story of the Filipino people,? he said in his message.
Rosales said Aquino was both a President and a symbol of ?what an authentic, truthful and honest leader was to a people whose long experience was to look for a guide who would lead them out of history?s cruel political disarray.? With a report from Agence France-Presse