Pope Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus XVI; Italian: Benedetto XVI; German: Benedikt XVI; born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger; 16 April 1927) served as Pope and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2005 until his resignation in 2013. Benedict’s election occurred in the 2005 papal conclave that followed the death of Pope John Paul II. The Vatican announced his post-papal title as Pope Emeritus shortly after his resignation.
Ordained as a priest in 1951 in his native Bavaria, Ratzinger had established himself as a highly regarded university theologian by the late 1950s and was appointed a full professor in 1958. After a long career as an academic and professor of theology at several German universities, he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and Cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977, an unusual promotion for someone with little pastoral experience. In 1981, he was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman Curia. From 2002 until his election as Pope, he was also Dean of the College of Cardinals. Prior to becoming Pope, he was “a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century”; he had an influence “second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions” as one of John Paul II’s closest confidants. He has lived in Rome since 1981.
He was originally a liberal theologian, but adopted conservative views after 1968. His prolific writings defend traditional Catholic doctrine and values. During his papacy, Benedict XVI advocated a return to fundamental Christian values to counter the increased secularisation of many Western countries. He views relativism’s denial of objective truth, and the denial of moral truths in particular, as the central problem of the 21st century. He taught the importance of both the Catholic Church and an understanding of GOD’s redemptive love. Pope Benedict also revived a number of traditions, including elevating the Tridentine Mass to a more prominent position. He strengthened the relationship between the Catholic Church and art, promoted the use of Latin, and reintroduced traditional papal garments, for which reason he was called “the pope of aesthetics”. He has been described as “the main intellectual force in the Church” since the mid-1980s.
On 11 February 2013, Benedict announced his resignation in a speech in Latin before the cardinals, citing a “lack of strength of mind and body” due to his advanced age. His resignation became effective on 28 February 2013. He is the first Pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415, the first to do so on his own initiative since Pope Celestine V in 1294.
As Pope Emeritus, Benedict retains the style of His Holiness, and the title of Pope, and continues to dress in the papal colour of white. He was succeeded by Pope Francis on 13 March 2013, and he moved into the newly renovated monastery Mater Ecclesiae for his retirement on 2 May 2013. In his retirement, Benedict XVI has made occasional public appearances alongside Pope Francis.
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oseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born on 16 April, Holy Saturday, 1927, at Schulstraße 11, at 8:30 in the morning in his parents’ home in Marktl, Bavaria, Germany. He was baptised the same day. He is the third and youngest child of Joseph Ratzinger, Sr., a police officer, and Maria Ratzinger (née Peintner); his grand-uncle was the German priest-politician Georg Ratzinger. His mother’s family was originally from South Tyrol (now in Italy). Pope Benedict’s elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, is a Catholic priest and is the former director of the Regensburger Domspatzen choir. His sister, Maria Ratzinger, who never married, managed Cardinal Ratzinger’s household until her death in 1991.
At the age of five, Ratzinger was in a group of children who welcomed the visiting Cardinal Archbishop of Munich, Michael von Faulhaber, with flowers. Struck by the cardinal’s distinctive garb, he announced later that day that he wanted to be a cardinal. He attended the elementary school in Aschau am Inn, which was renamed in his honour in 2009.
Ratzinger’s family, especially his father, bitterly resented the Nazis, and his father’s opposition to Nazism resulted in demotions and harassment of the family. Following his 14th birthday in 1941, Ratzinger was conscripted into the Hitler Youth—as membership was required by law for all 14-year-old German boys after March 1939—but was an unenthusiastic member who refused to attend meetings, according to his brother. In 1941, one of Ratzinger’s cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was taken away by the Nazi regime and murdered during the Action T4 campaign of Nazi eugenics. In 1943, while still in seminary, he was drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps as Luftwaffenhelfer. Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry. As the Allied front drew closer to his post in 1945, he deserted back to his family’s home in Traunstein after his unit had ceased to exist, just as American troops established a headquarters in the Ratzinger household. As a German soldier, he was interned in a prisoner of war camp, but released a few months later at the end of the war in May 1945.
Ratzinger and his brother Georg entered Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein in November 1945, later studying at the Ducal Georgianum (Herzogliches Georgianum) of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. They were both ordained in Freising on 29 June 1951 by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber of Munich. Ratzinger recalled: “at the moment the elderly Archbishop laid his hands on me, a little bird – perhaps a lark – flew up from the altar in the high cathedral and trilled a little joyful song.”
Ratzinger’s 1953 dissertation was on St. Augustine and was titled The People and the House of GOD in Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church. His habilitation (which qualified him for a professorship) was on Bonaventure. It was completed in 1957 and he became a professor of Freising College in 1958.
Encounter with Romano Guardini
In his early twenties, he was deeply influenced by the thought of Italian German Romano Guardini who taught in Munich 1946 to 1951 when Ratzinger was studying in Freising and later at the University of Munich. The intellectual affinity between these two thinkers, who would later become decisive figures for the twentieth-century Church, was preoccupied with rediscovering the essential in Christianity. Guardini with his 1938 tome “The Essence of Christianity,” while Ratzinger penned “Introduction to Christianity,” three decades later in 1968. Guardini inspired many in the Catholic social-democratic tradition, particularly the Communion and Liberation movement in the New Evangelization encouraged under the papacy of Polish Pope John Paul II. At the close of the twentieth the future Cardinal Ratzinger would write an introduction to a 1996 reissue of Guardini’s 1954 classic “The LORD”.
Academic career: 1951–1977
Ratzinger became a professor at the University of Bonn in 1959, his inaugural lecture was on “The GOD of Faith and the GOD of Philosophy”. In 1963, he moved to the University of Münster. During this period, he participated in the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) and served as a peritus (theological consultant) to Cardinal Frings of Cologne. He was viewed during the time of the Council as a reformer, cooperating with theologians like Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx. Ratzinger became an admirer of Karl Rahner, a well-known academic theologian of the Nouvelle Théologie and a proponent of church reform.
In 1966, Ratzinger was appointed to a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen, where he was a colleague of Hans Küng. In his 1968 book Introduction to Christianity, he wrote that the pope has a duty to hear differing voices within the Church before making a decision, and he downplayed the centrality of the papacy. During this time, he distanced himself from the atmosphere of Tübingen and the Marxist leanings of the student movement of the 1960s that quickly radicalised, in the years 1967 and 1968, culminating in a series of disturbances and riots in April and May 1968. Ratzinger came increasingly to see these and associated developments (such as decreasing respect for authority among his students) as connected to a departure from traditional Catholic teachings. Despite his reformist bent, his views increasingly came to contrast with the liberal ideas gaining currency in theological circles.
Some voices, among them Küng, deem this a turn towards conservatism, while Ratzinger himself said in a 1993 interview, “I see no break in my views as a theologian [over the years]”. Ratzinger continued to defend the work of the Second Vatican Council, including Nostra aetate, the document on respect of other religions, ecumenism and the declaration of the right to freedom of religion. Later, as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger most clearly spelled out the Catholic Church’s position on other religions in the 2000 document Dominus Iesus which also talks about the Catholic way to engage in “ecumenical dialogue”. During his time at Tübingen University, Ratzinger published articles in the reformist theological journal Concilium, though he increasingly chose less reformist themes than other contributors to the magazine such as Küng and Schillebeeckx.
In 1969, he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg and co-founded the theological journal Communio, with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Walter Kasper and others, in 1972. Communio, now published in seventeen languages, including German, English and Spanish, has become a prominent journal of contemporary Catholic theological thought. Until his election as pope, he remained one of the journal’s most prolific contributors. In 1976, he suggested that the Augsburg Confession might possibly be recognised as a Catholic statement of faith. Several of Benedict’s former students became his confidantes, notably Christoph Schönborn, and a number of his former students sometimes meet for discussions. He served as Vice President of the University of Regensburg from 1976 to 1977.
Archbishop of Munich and Freising: 1977–1982
On 24 March 1977, Ratzinger was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising. He took as his episcopal motto Cooperatores Veritatis (Co-workers of the Truth) from 3 John 8, a choice he comments upon in his autobiographical work, Milestones. In the consistory of the following 27 June, he was named Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino by Pope Paul VI. By the time of the 2005 Conclave, he was one of only 14 remaining cardinals appointed by Paul VI, and one of only three of those under the age of 80. Of these, only he and William Wakefield Baum took part in the conclave.
Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: 1981–2005
On 25 November 1981, Pope John Paul II, upon the retirement of Franjo Šeper, named Ratzinger as the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the “Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office”, the historical Roman Inquisition. Consequently, he resigned his post at Munich in early 1982. He was promoted within the College of Cardinals to become Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993 and was made the college’s vice-dean in 1998 and dean in 2002. Just a year after its foundation in 1990 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger joined the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Salzburg/Austria in 1991.
Ratzinger defended and reaffirmed Catholic doctrine, including teaching on topics such as birth control, homosexuality and inter-religious dialogue. The theologian Leonardo Boff, for example, was suspended, while others such as Matthew Fox were censured. Other issues also prompted condemnations or revocations of rights to teach: for instance, some posthumous writings of Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello were the subject of a notification. Ratzinger and the congregation viewed many of them, particularly the later works, as having an element of religious indifferentism (i.e., Christ was “one master alongside others”). In particular, Dominus Iesus, published by the congregation in the jubilee year 2000, reaffirmed many recently “unpopular” ideas, including the Catholic Church’s position that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” The document angered many Protestant churches by claiming that they are not actually churches, but “ecclesial communities”.
Ratzinger’s 2001 letter De delictis gravioribus clarified the confidentiality of internal church investigations, as defined in the 1962 document Crimen Sollicitationis, into accusations made against priests of certain crimes, including sexual abuse. This became a subject of controversy during the sex abuse cases. For 20 years, Ratzinger had been the man in charge of enforcing the document.}}
While bishops hold the secrecy pertained only internally, and did not preclude investigation by civil law enforcement, the letter was often seen as promoting a coverup. Later, as pope, he was accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys in Texas, but sought and obtained diplomatic immunity from liability.
On 12 March 1983, Ratzinger, as prefect, notified the lay faithful and the clergy that Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc had incurred excommunication latae sententiae for illicit episcopal consecrations without the apostolic mandate. In 1997, when he turned 70, Ratzinger asked Pope John Paul II for permission to leave the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith and to become an archivist in the Vatican Secret Archives and a librarian in the Vatican Library, but Pope John Paul ll refused his assent.
Election to the papacy
Benedict XVI was elected the 265th pope at the age of 78. He is the oldest person to have been elected pope since Pope Clement XII (1730–40). He served longer as a cardinal before becoming Pope than any Pontiff since Benedict XIII (1724–30). Benedict and his Polish predecessor John Paul II were the first consecutive non-Italian popes since the seven consecutive Frenchmen of the Avignon Papacy (1309–78). The last pope named Benedict was Benedict XV, an Italian who reigned from 1914 to 1922, during World War I (1914–18).
On 2 January 2005, Time magazine quoted unnamed Vatican sources as saying that Ratzinger was a front runner to succeed John Paul II should he die or become too ill to continue as pope. On the death of John Paul II, the Financial Times gave the odds of Ratzinger becoming pope as 7–1, the lead position, but close to his rivals on the liberal wing of the church. In April 2005, before his election as pope, he was identified as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time. While Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger repeatedly stated he would like to retire to his house in the Bavarian village of Pentling near Regensburg and dedicate himself to writing books.
At the conclave, “it was, if not Ratzinger, who? And as they came to know him, the question became, why not Ratzinger?” On 19 April 2005, he was elected on the second day after four ballots. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor described the final vote, “It’s very solemn when you go up one by one to put your vote in the urn and you’re looking up at the Last Judgement of Michelangelo. And I still remember vividly the then Cardinal Ratzinger sitting on the edge of his chair.” Ratzinger had hoped to retire peacefully and said that “At a certain point, I prayed to God ‘please don’t do this to me’…Evidently, this time He didn’t listen to me.” Before his first appearance on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica, he was announced by Jorge Medina Estévez, Cardinal Protodeacon of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Medina Estévez first addressed the massive crowd as “dear(est) brothers and sisters” in Italian, Spanish, French, German and English, with each language receiving cheers from the international crowd, before continuing with the traditional Habemus Papam announcement in Latin.
At the balcony, Benedict’s first words to the crowd, given in Italian before he gave the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing in Latin, were:
Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the LORD. The fact that the LORD knows how to work and to act even with insufficient instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help, let us move forward. The Lord will help us, and Mary, His Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.
On 24 April, he celebrated the Papal Inauguration Mass in St. Peter’s Square, during which he was invested with the Pallium and the Ring of the Fisherman. On 7 May, he took possession of his cathedral church, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.
Choice of name
Ratzinger chose the pontifical name Benedict, which comes from the Latin word meaning “the blessed”, in honour of both Pope Benedict XV and Saint Benedict of Nursia (or Norcia). Pope Benedict XV was pope during the First World War, during which time he passionately pursued peace between the warring nations. St. Benedict of Nursia was the founder of the Benedictine monasteries (most monasteries of the Middle Ages were of the Benedictine order) and the author of the Rule of Saint Benedict, which is still the most influential writing regarding the monastic life of Western Christianity. The Pope explained his choice of name during his first general audience in St. Peter’s Square, on 27 April 2005:
Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples. Additionally, I recall Saint Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, whose life evokes the Christian roots of Europe. I ask him to help us all to hold firm to the centrality of Christ in our Christian life: May Christ always take first place in our thoughts and actions!
Tone of papacy
During his inaugural Mass, the previous custom of every cardinal submitting to the Pope was replaced by having twelve people, including cardinals, clergy, religious, a married couple and their child, and newly confirmed people, greet him. (The cardinals had formally sworn their obedience upon his election.) He began using an open-topped papal car, saying that he wanted to be closer to the people. Pope Benedict continued the tradition of his predecessor John Paul II and baptised several infants in the Sistine Chapel at the beginning of each year, in his pastoral role as Bishop of Rome.
Pope Benedict made only modest changes to the structure of the Roman Curia. In March 2006, he placed both the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace under a single president, Cardinal Renato Martino. When Martino retired in 2009, the Councils each received its own preside once again. Also in March 2006 the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was briefly merged into the Pontifical Council for Culture under Cardinal Paul Poupard. Those Councils maintained their separate officials and staffs while their status and competencies continued unchanged, and in May 2007 Interreligious Dialogue was restored to its separate status again with its own president. In June 2010 Benedict created the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, appointing Archbishop Rino Fisichella its first president. On 16 January 2013 Pope Benedict transferred responsibility for catechesis from the Congregation for the Clergy to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
As pope, one of Benedict XVI’s main roles was to teach about the Catholic faith and the solutions to the problems of discerning and living the faith, a role that he could play well as a former head of the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The main points of emphasis of his teachings are stated in more detail in Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.
“Friendship with Jesus Christ”
At the conclusion of his first homily as pope, Benedict referred to both Jesus Christ and John Paul II. Citing John Paul II’s well-known words, “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!”, Benedict XVI said:
Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that he might take something away from us?…And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation….When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.
“Friendship with Jesus Christ” is a frequent theme of his preaching. He stressed that on this intimate friendship, “everything depends.” He also said: “We are all called to open ourselves to this friendship with GOD… speaking to him as to a friend, the only One who can make the world both good and happy… That is all we have to do is put ourselves at his disposal…is an extremely important message. It is a message that helps to overcome what can be considered the great temptation of our time: the claim, that after the Big Bang, GOD withdrew from history.” Thus, in his book Jesus of Nazareth, his main purpose was “to help foster [in the reader] the growth of a living relationship” with Jesus Christ.
He took up this theme in his first encyclical Deus caritas est. In his personal explanation and summary of the encyclical, he stated: “If friendship with GOD becomes for us something ever more important and decisive, then we will begin to love those whom GOD loves and who are in need of us. GOD wants us to be friends of his friends and we can be so, if we are interiorly close to them.” Thus, he said that prayer is “urgently needed… It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work.”
“Dictatorship of relativism”
Continuing what he said in the pre-conclave Mass about what he often referred to as the “central problem of our faith today”, on 6 June 2005 Pope Benedict also said:
Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of education is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognising nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego.
He said that “a dictatorship of relativism” was the core challenge facing the church and humanity. At the root of this problem, he said, is Kant‘s “self-limitation of reason”. This, he said, is contradictory to the modern acclamation of science whose excellence is based on the power of reason to know the truth. He said that this self-amputation of reason leads to pathologies of religion such as terrorism and pathologies of science such as ecological disasters. Benedict traced the failed revolutions and violent ideologies of the 20th century to a conversion of partial points of view into absolute guides. He said “Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is called totalitarianism.”
The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for true freedom of man…from here it becomes all the more clear how contrary it is to human love, to the profound vocation of man and woman, to systematically close their union to the gift of life, and even worse to suppress or tamper with the life that is born.
Christianity as religion according to reason
In the discussion with secularism and rationalism, one of Benedict’s basic ideas can be found in his address on the “Crisis of Culture” in the West, a day before Pope John Paul II died, when he referred to Christianity as the Religion of the Logos (the Greek for “word”, “reason”, “meaning”, or “intelligence”). He said:
From the beginning, Christianity has understood itself as the religion of the Logos, as the religion according to reason… It has always defined men, all men without distinction, as creatures and images of God, proclaiming for them…the same dignity. In this connection, the Enlightenment is of Christian origin and it is no accident that it was born precisely and exclusively in the realm of the Christian faith….It was and is the merit of the Enlightenment to have again proposed these original values of Christianity and of having given back to reason its own voice… Today, this should be precisely [Christianity’s] philosophical strength, in so far as the problem is whether the world comes from the irrational, and reason is not other than a ‘sub-product,’ on occasion even harmful of its development—or whether the world comes from reason, and is, as a consequence, its criterion and goal…In the so necessary dialogue between secularists and Catholics, we Christians must be very careful to remain faithful to this fundamental line: to live a faith that comes from the Logos, from creative reason, and that, because of this, is also open to all that is truly rational.
Benedict also emphasised that “Only creative reason, which in the crucified God is manifested as love, can really show us the way.”
Pope Benedict wrote three encyclicals: Deus caritas est (Latin for “God is Love”), Spe Salvi (“Saved by Hope”), and Caritas in veritate (“Love in Truth”). In his first encyclical, Deus caritas est, he said that a human being, created in the image of God who is love, is able to practice love: to give himself to God and others (agape) by receiving and experiencing God’s love in contemplation. This life of love, according to him, is the life of the saints such as Teresa of Calcutta and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and is the direction Christians take when they believe that God loves them in Jesus Christ.
The encyclical contains almost 16,000 words in 42 paragraphs. The first half is said to have been written by Benedict in German, his first language, in the summer of 2005; the second half is derived from uncompleted writings left by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. The document was signed by Pope Benedict on Christmas Day, 25 December 2005. The encyclical was promulgated a month later in Latin and was translated into English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish. It is the first encyclical to be published since the Vatican decided to assert copyright in the official writings of the pope.
Benedict’s second encyclical titled Spe Salvi (“Saved by Hope”), about the virtue of hope, was released on 30 November 2007. His third encyclical titled Caritas in veritate (“Love in Truth” or “Charity in Truth”), was signed on 29 June 2009 (the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul) and released on 7 July 2009. In it, the Pope continued the Church’s teachings on social justice. He condemned the prevalent economic system “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and called on people to rediscover ethics in business and economic relations.
At the time of his resignation, Benedict had completed a draft of a fourth encyclical entitled Lumen fidei (“The Light of Faith”), intended to accompany his first two encyclicals to complete a trilogy on the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, completed and published Lumen Fidei in June 2013, four months after Benedict’s retirement and Francis’ succession. Although the encyclical is officially the work of Pope Francis, paragraph 7 of the encyclical explicitly expresses Francis’ debt to Benedict: “These considerations on faith — in continuity with all that the Church’s magisterium has pronounced on this theological virtue — are meant to supplement what Benedict XVI had written in his encyclical letters on charity and hope. He himself had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own.”
Post-synodal apostolic exhortation
Sacramentum caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity), signed 22 February 2007, was released in Latin, Italian, English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Polish. It was made available in various languages 13 March 2007 in Rome. The English edition from Libera Editrice Vaticana is 158 pages. This apostolic exhortation “seeks to take up the richness and variety of the reflections and proposals which emerged from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops” which was held in 2006.
Motu proprio on Tridentine Mass
On 7 July 2007, Benedict XVI issued the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, declaring that upon “the request of the faithful”, celebration of Mass according to the Missal of 1962 (commonly known as the Tridentine Mass), was to be more easily permitted. Stable groups who previously had to petition their bishop to have a Tridentine Mass may now merely request permission from their local priest. While Summorum Pontificum directs that pastors should provide the Tridentine Mass upon the requests of the faithful, it also allows for any qualified priest to offer private celebrations of the Tridentine Mass, to which the faithful may be admitted if they wish. For regularly scheduled public celebrations of the Tridentine Mass, the permission of the priest in charge of the church is required.
In an accompanying letter, the Pope outlined his position concerning questions about the new guidelines. As there were fears that the move would entail a reversal of the Second Vatican Council, Benedict emphasised that the Tridentine Mass would not detract from the Council, and that the Mass of Paul VI would still be the norm and priests were not permitted to refuse to say the Mass in that form. He pointed out that use of Tridentine Mass “was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.” The letter also decried “deformations of the liturgy … because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal” as the Second Vatican Council was wrongly seen “as authorising or even requiring creativity”, mentioning his own experience.
The Pope considered that allowing the Tridentine Mass to those who request it was a means to prevent or heal schism, stating that, on occasions in history, “not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity” and that this “imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.” Many feel the decree aimed at ending the schism between the Holy See and traditionalist groups such as the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, the president of the Pontifical Commission established for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of those associated with that Society, stated that the decree “opened the door for their return”. Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, expressed “deep gratitude to the Sovereign Pontiff for this great spiritual benefit”.
Unicity and salvific universality of the Catholic Church
Near the end of June 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document approved by Benedict XVI “because some contemporary theological interpretations of Vatican II‘s ecumenical intent had been ‘erroneous or ambiguous’ and had prompted confusion and doubt.” The document has been seen as restating “key sections of a 2000 text the pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, Dominus Iesus.”
Benedict XVI condemned excessive consumerism, especially among youth. He stated in December 2007 that “[A]dolescents, youths and even children are easy victims of the corruption of love, deceived by unscrupulous adults who, lying to themselves and to them, draw them into the dead-end streets of consumerism.” In June 2009, he blamed outsourcing for greater availability of consumer goods which lead to downsizing of social security systems.
Ecumenism and interfaith dialogue
Speaking at his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square on 7 June 2006, Pope Benedict asserted that Jesus himself had entrusted the leadership of the Church to his apostle Peter. “Peter’s responsibility thus consists of guaranteeing the communion with Christ. Let us pray so that the primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, may always be exercised in this original sense desired by the Lord, so that it will be increasingly recognised in its true meaning by brothers who are still not in communion with us.”
Also in 2006, Benedict met Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican Communion. In their Common Declaration, they highlighted the previous 40 years of dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans while also acknowledging “serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress”. Benedict also acknowledged the Lutheran church, saying that he has had friends in that denomination.
When Benedict ascended to the Papacy his election was welcomed by the Anti-Defamation League who noted “his great sensitivity to Jewish history and the Holocaust“. However, his election received a more reserved response from the United Kingdom’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who hoped that Benedict would “continue along the path of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II in working to enhance relations with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.” The Foreign Minister of Israel also offered more tentative praise, though the Minister believed that “this Pope, considering his historical experience, will be especially committed to an uncompromising fight against anti-Semitism.”
Critics have accused Benedict’s papacy of insensitivity towards Judaism. The two most prominent instances were the expansion of the use of the Tridentine Mass and the lifting of the excommunication on four bishops from the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). In the Good Friday service, the traditional Mass rubrics include a prayer that asks God to lift the veil so they [Jews] may be delivered from their darkness. This prayer has historically been contentious in Judaic-Catholic relations and several groups saw the restoration of the Tridentine Mass as problematic. Among those whose excommunications were lifted was Bishop Richard Williamson, an outspoken historical revisionist sometimes interpreted as a Holocaust denier. The lifting of his excommunication led critics to charge that the Pope was condoning his historical revisionist views.
Pope Benedict’s relations with Islam were strained at times. On 12 September 2006 he delivered a lecture which touched on Islam at the University of Regensburg in Germany. He had served there as a professor of theology before becoming Pope, and his lecture was entitled “Faith, Reason and the University—Memories and Reflections”. The lecture received much attention from political and religious authorities. Many Islamic politicians and religious leaders registered their protest against what they labelled an insulting mischaracterisation of Islam, although his focus was aimed towards the rationality of religious violence, and its effect on the religion. Muslims were particularly offended by this passage that the Pope quoted in his speech: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The passage originally appeared in the Dialogue Held with a Certain Persian, the Worthy Mouterizes, in Anakara of Galatia written in 1391 as an expression of the views of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, one of the last Christian rulers before the Fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottoman Empire, on such issues as forced conversion, holy war, and the relationship between faith and reason. According to the German text, the Pope’s original comment was that the emperor “addresses his interlocutor in an astoundingly harsh—to us surprisingly harsh—way” (wendet er sich in erstaunlich schroffer, uns überraschend schroffer Form). Pope Benedict apologised for any offence he had caused and made a point of visiting Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, and praying in its Blue Mosque. Benedict planned on 5 March 2008, to meet with Muslim scholars and religious leaders autumn 2008 at a Catholic-Muslim seminar in Rome. That meeting, the “First Meeting of the Catholic-Muslim Forum,” was held from 4–6 November 2008. On 9 May 2009, Benedict visited the King Hussein Mosque, Amman, Jordan where he was addressed by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad.
The Dalai Lama congratulated Pope Benedict XVI upon his election, and visited him in October 2006 in the Vatican City. In 2007 China was accused of using its political influence to stop a meeting between the Pope and the Dalai Lama.
Indigenous American beliefs
While visiting Brazil in May 2007, “the pope sparked controversy by saying that native populations had been ‘silently longing’ for the Christian faith brought to South America by colonizers.” The Pope continued, stating that “the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.” The then President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez demanded an apology, and an indigenous organisation in Ecuador issued a response which stated that “representatives of the Catholic Church of those times, with honourable exceptions, were accomplices, deceivers and beneficiaries of one of the most horrific genocides of all humanity.” Later, the Pope, speaking Italian, said at a weekly audience that it was “not possible to forget the suffering and the injustices inflicted by colonizers against the indigenous population, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled.”
While visiting the United States on 17 April 2008, Benedict met with International Society for Krishna Consciousness representative Radhika Ramana Dasa; a noted Hindu scholar and disciple of Hanumatpreshaka Swami. On behalf of the Hindu American community, Radhika Ramana Dasa presented a gift of an Om symbol to Benedict.
As pontiff, Benedict XVI carried out numerous Apostolic activities including journeys across the world and in the Vatican.
Benedict travelled extensively during the first three years of his papacy. In addition to his travels within Italy, Pope Benedict XVI made two visits to his homeland, Germany, one for World Youth Day and another to visit the towns of his childhood. He also visited Poland and Spain, where he was enthusiastically received. His visit to Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, was initially overshadowed by the controversy about a lecture he had given at Regensburg. His visit was met by nationalist and Islamic protesters and was placed under unprecedented security measures. However, the trip went ahead and Benedict made a joint declaration with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in an attempt to begin to heal the rift between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
In 2007, Pope Benedict visited Brazil in order to address the Bishops’ Conference there and canonize Friar Antônio Galvão, an 18th-century Franciscan. In June 2007, Benedict made a personal pilgrimage and pastoral visit to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. In September, Benedict undertook a three-day visit to Austria, during which he joined Vienna’s Chief Rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg, in a memorial to the 65,000 Viennese Jews who perished in Nazi death camps. During his stay in Austria, he also celebrated Mass at the Marian shrine Mariazell and visited Heiligenkreuz Abbey.
In April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI made his first visit to the United States since becoming pope. He arrived in Washington, DC where he was formally received at the White House and met privately with U.S. President George W. Bush. While in Washington, the pope addressed representatives of US Catholic universities, met with leaders of other world religions, and celebrated Mass at the Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium with 47,000 people. The Pope also met privately with victims of sexual abuse by priests. The Pope travelled to New York where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Also while in New York, the Pope celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, met with disabled children and their families, and attended an event for Catholic youth, where he addressed some 25,000 young people in attendance. On the final day of the Pope’s visit, he visited the World Trade Center site and later celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium.
In July 2008, the Pope travelled to Australia to attend World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney. On 19 July, in St. Mary’s Cathedral, he made an apology for child sex abuse perpetrated by the clergy in Australia. On 13 September 2008, at an outdoor Paris Mass attended by 250,000 people, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the modern materialism – the world’s love of power, possessions and money as a modern-day plague, comparing it to paganism. In 2009, he visited Africa (Cameroon and Angola) for the first time as pope. During his visit, he suggested that altering sexual behavior was the answer to Africa’s AIDS crisis, and urged Catholics to reach out and convert believers in sorcery. He visited the Middle East (Jordan, Israel and Palestine) in May 2009.
Pope Benedict’s main arena for pastoral activity was the Vatican itself, his Christmas and Easter homilies and Urbi et Orbi are delivered from St Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican is also the only regular place where Benedict XVI traveled via motor without the protective bulletproof case common to most popemobiles. Despite the more secure setting, Pope Benedict was victim to security risks several times inside Vatican City. On Wednesday, 6 June 2007 during his General Audience a man leapt across a barrier, evaded guards and nearly mounted the Pope’s vehicle, although he was stopped and Benedict seemed to be unaware of the event. On Thursday, 24 December 2009, while Pope Benedict was proceeding to the altar to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass at St Peter’s Basilica, a woman later identified as 25-year-old Susanna Maiolo, who holds Italian and Swiss citizenships, jumped the barrier and grabbed the Pope by his vestments and pulled him to the ground. The 82-year-old fell but was assisted to his feet and he continued to proceed towards the altar to celebrate Mass. Roger Etchegaray, 87, the vice-dean of the College of Cardinals, fell also and suffered a hip fracture. Italian police reported that the woman had previously attempted to accost the Pope at the previous Christmas Eve Mass, but was prevented from doing so.
Between 17 and 18 April, Pope Benedict made an Apostolic Journey to the Republic of Malta. Following meetings with various dignitaries on his first day on the island, 50,000 people gathered in a drizzle for Papal Mass on the granaries in Floriana. The Pope also met with the Maltese youth at the Valletta Waterfront, where an estimated 10,000 young people turned up to greet him. During his visit the Pope was moved to tears while expressing his shame at cases of abuse on the island during a 20-minute meeting with victims.
Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church
Prior to 2001, the primary responsibility for investigating allegations of sexual abuse and disciplining perpetrators rested with the individual dioceses. In 2001, Ratzinger convinced John Paul II to put the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in charge of all investigations and policies surrounding sexual abuse in order to combat such abuse more efficiently. According to John L. Allen, Jr., Ratzinger in the following years “acquired a familiarity with the contours of the problem that virtually no other figure in the Catholic Church can claim” and “driven by that encounter with what he would later refer to as ‘filth’ in the Church, Ratzinger seems to have undergone something of a ‘conversion experience’ throughout 2003–04. From that point forward, he and his staff seemed driven by a convert’s zeal to clean up the mess”. In his role as Head of the CDF, he “led important changes made in Church law: the inclusion in canon law of internet offences against children, the extension of child abuse offences to include the sexual abuse of all under 18, the case by case waiving of the statute of limitation and the establishment of a fast-track dismissal from the clerical state for offenders.” As the Head of the CDF, Ratzinger developed a reputation for handling these cases. According to Charles J. Scicluna, a former prosecutor handling sexual abuse cases, “Cardinal Ratzinger displayed great wisdom and firmness in handling those cases, also demonstrating great courage in facing some of the most difficult and thorny cases, sine acceptione personarum (without exceptions)”.
One of the cases Ratzinger pursued involved Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, a Mexican priest and founder of the Legion of Christ, who had been accused repeatedly of sexual abuse. Biographer Andrea Tornielli suggested that Cardinal Ratzinger had wanted to take action against Marcial Maciel Degollado, but that John Paul II and other high-ranking officials, including several cardinals and notably the Pope’s influential secretary Stanisław Dziwisz, prevented him from doing so. According to Jason Berry, Angelo Sodano “pressured” Cardinal Ratzinger, who was “operating on the assumption that the charges were not justified”, to halt the proceedings against Maciel in 1999 When Maciel was honored by the Pope in 2004, new accusers came forward and Cardinal Ratzinger “took it on himself to authorize an investigation of Maciel” After Ratzinger became pope he began proceedings against Maciel and the Legion of Christ that forced Maciel out of active service in the Church. On 1 May 2010 the Vatican issued a statement denouncing Maciel’s “very serious and objectively immoral acts”, which were “confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies” and represent “true crimes and manifest a life without scruples or authentic religious sentiment.” Pope Benedict also said he would appoint a special commission to examine the Legionaries’ constitution and open an investigation into its lay affiliate Regnum Christi. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn explained that Ratzinger “made entirely clear efforts not to cover things up but to tackle and investigate them. This was not always met with approval in the Vatican”. According to Schönborn, Cardinal Ratzinger had pressed John Paul II to investigate Hans Hermann Groër, an Austrian cardinal and friend of John Paul accused of sexual abuse, resulting in Groër’s resignation.
In March 2010, the Pope sent a Pastoral Letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland addressing cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests to minors, expressing sorrow, and promising changes in the way accusations of abuse are dealt with. Victim groups claim the letter failed to clarify if secular law enforcement has priority over canon law confidentiality pertaining to internal investigation of abuse allegations. The Pope then promised to introduce measures that would ‘safeguard young people in the future’ and ‘bring to justice’ priests who were responsible for abuse. In April, the Vatican issued guidelines on how existing Church law should be implemented. The guideline dictates that “Civil law concerning reporting of crimes… should always be followed.” The guideline was intended to follow the norms established by U.S. bishops, but it does not require the reporting of “allegations” or crimes where reporting is not required by law.
Pope Benedict XVI re-introduced several papal garments which had fallen into disuse. Pope Benedict XVI resumed the use of the traditional red papal shoes, which had been used since Roman times by popes but which had fallen into disuse during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Contrary to the initial speculation of the press that the shoes had been made by the Italian fashion house Prada, the Vatican announced that the shoes were provided by the Pope’s personal shoemaker.
On only one occasion, 21 December 2005, the Pope wore the camauro, the traditional red papal hat usually worn in the winter. It had not been seen since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII (1958–1963). On 6 September 2006, the Pope began wearing the red cappello romano (also called a saturno), a wide-brimmed hat for outdoor use. Rarely used by John Paul II, it was more widely worn by his predecessors.
The journalist Charlotte Allen describes Benedict as “the pope of aesthetics”: “He has reminded a world that looks increasingly ugly and debased that there is such a thing as the beautiful—whether it’s embodied in a sonata or an altarpiece or an embroidered cope or the cut of a cassock—and that earthly beauty ultimately communicates a beauty that is beyond earthly things.”
Prior to his election as pope in 2005, Ratzinger had hoped to retire—on account of age-related health problems, a long-held desire to have free time to write, and the retirement age for bishops (75)—and submitted his resignation as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith three times, but continued at his post in obedience to the wishes of Pope John Paul II. In September 1991, Ratzinger suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, which slightly impaired his eyesight temporarily but he recovered completely. This was never officially made public—the official news was that Ratzinger had fallen and struck his head against a radiator—but was an open secret known to the conclave that elected him pope.
Following his election in April 2005 there were several rumors about the Pope’s health, but none of them were confirmed. Early in his pontificate Benedict XVI predicted a short reign, which led to concerns about his health. In May 2005 the Vatican announced that he had suffered another mild stroke. French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin said that since the first stroke Ratzinger had been suffering from an age-related heart condition, for which he was on medication. In late November 2006 Vatican insiders told the international press that the Pope had had a routine examination of the heart. A few days later an unconfirmed rumor emerged that Pope Benedict had undergone an operation in preparation for an eventual bypass operation, but this rumor was only published by a small left-wing Italian newspaper and was never confirmed by any Vatican insider.
On 17 July 2009, Benedict was hospitalized after falling and breaking his right wrist while on vacation in the Alps; his injuries were reported to be minor.
Following the announcement of his resignation, the Vatican revealed that Pope Benedict had been fitted with a pacemaker while he was still a cardinal, before his election as pope in 2005. The battery in the pacemaker had been replaced three months earlier, a routine procedure, but that did not influence his decision.
On 11 February 2013, the Vatican confirmed that Benedict XVI would resign the papacy on 28 February 2013, as a result of his advanced age, becoming the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415. At the age of 85 years and 318 days on the effective date of his retirement, he was the fourth-oldest person to hold the office of pope. The move was unexpected. In modern times, all popes have held office until death. Benedict was the first pope to resign without external pressure since Celestine V in 1294.
In his declaration of 10 Feb 2013, Benedict resigned as “Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter”.
In a statement, Benedict cited his deteriorating strength and the physical and mental demands of the papacy; addressing his cardinals in Latin, Benedict gave a brief statement announcing his resignation. He also declared that he would continue to serve the church “through a life dedicated to prayer”.
According to a statement from the Vatican, the timing of the resignation was not caused by any specific illness but was to “avoid that exhausting rush of Easter engagements”. After two weeks of ceremonial farewells, the Pope left office at the appointed time and sede vacante was declared.
On the eve of the first anniversary of Benedict’s resignation he wrote to La Stampa to deny speculation he had been forced to step down. “There isn’t the slightest doubt about the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,” he wrote in a letter to the newspaper. “The only condition for the validity is the full freedom of the decision. Speculation about its invalidity is simply absurd,” he wrote.
On the morning of 28 February 2013, Pope Benedict met with the full College of Cardinals and in the early afternoon flew by helicopter to the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. He stayed there until refurbishment was completed on his retirement home, the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican Gardens near St Peter’s, formerly home to 12 nuns, where he moved on 2 May 2013. To protect it, there is a thick hedge and a fence. It has a garden of more than 2,000 square meters that overlooks the monastery and is adjacent to the current “Pope’s garden”. A few tens of meters away is the building of Vatican Radio.
After his resignation, Benedict XVI retained his papal name rather than reverting to his birth name. He continued to wear the white cassock but without the pellegrina or the fascia. He ceased wearing red papal shoes. Benedict returned his official Fisherman’s Ring, which is usually destroyed by Vatican officials on the death of a pope to prevent documents being counterfeited.
According to a Vatican spokesman, Benedict spent his first day as pope emeritus with Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the Prefect of the Papal Household. In the monastery, the pope emeritus does not live a cloistered life, but studies and writes. The pope emeritus joined his successor several months after his election at the unveiling of a new statue of Saint Michael the Archangel. The inscription on the statue, according to Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, has the coat of arms of the two popes to symbolize the fact that statue was commissioned by Benedict XVI, and consecrated by Francis.
Benedict XVI made his first public appearance after his resignation at St. Peter’s Basilica on 22 February 2014 to attend the first papal consistory of his successor Pope Francis. Benedict XVI, who entered the basilica through a discreet entrance, was seated in a row with several other cardinals. He doffed his zucchetto when Pope Francis came down the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica to greet him. He then made an appearance at the canonization mass of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, greeting the cardinals and Pope Francis.
In August 2014, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at the Vatican and met with his former doctoral students, an annual tradition he has kept since the 1970s. He attended the beatification of Pope Paul VI in October 2014. Weeks before this, he joined Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Square for an audience with grandparents to honor their importance in society.
Benedict wrote the text of a speech, delivered by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, on the occasion of the dedication of the Aula Magna at the Pontifical Urbaniana University to the Pope Emeritus, “a gesture of gratitude for what he has done for the Church as a conciliar expert, with his teaching as professor, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and, finally, the Magisterium.” The ceremony took place on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 during the opening of the academic year.
Benedict XVI attended the consistory for new cardinals in February 2015, greeting Pope Francis at the beginning of the celebration. In 2015, Benedict XVI, who now prefers to be known as “Father Benedict”, spent the summer at Castel Gandolfo and participated in two public events. “Pope Francis invited Benedict XVI to spend some time in Castel Gandolfo in the month of July and Benedict accepted”, Fr. Lombardi told journalists on 15 June. Benedict XVI remained there for two weeks. While in Castel Gandolfo, Benedict XVI received two honorary doctorates, given to him by Kraków’s Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II’s longtime aide, from the Pontifical University of John Paul II and the Kraków Academy of Music. In his reception address, Benedict XVI paid homage to his predecessor, John Paul II.
The “Joseph Ratzinger–Benedict XVI Roman Library” at the Pontifical Teutonic College was announced in April 2015 and is scheduled to open to scholars in November 2015. The library section dedicated to his life and thought is being catalogued. It includes books by or about him and his studies, many donated by Benedict XVI himself.
In March 2016 he gave an interview expressing his views on mercy and endorsing Pope Francis’s stress on mercy in his pastoral practice. Also that month, a Vatican spokesman stated that Benedict XVI was “slowly, serenely fading” in his physical health, although his mental capacity remained “perfectly lucid”.
The pope emeritus was honoured by the Roman Curia and Pope Francis in 2016 at a special audience, honouring the 65th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Benedict XVI, later that year in November, did not attend the consistory for new cardinals, though he did meet with them and Pope Francis at his residence after the consistory had taken place.
On 28 June 2017, the Pope Emeritus received the newly created cardinals in his chapel and “spoke with all of them in their native tongue” while also remarking that they were “from the four continents, the whole church”. He further said that “The Lord wins in the end” and “thank you all”, he said, before giving them his blessing.
In July 2017, Benedict XVI sent a message through his private secretary Monsignor Gänswein for the occasion of the funeral of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who had suddenly passed away while on vacation in Germany. In his message, the Pope Emeritus referred to Meisner as a “passionate shepherd and pastor” who found it “difficult to leave his post”. The former pope also said that he had spoken on the telephone with Meisner the day before the latter died and related that Meisner was grateful to be on vacation after having been present for the beatification of Teofilius Matulionis in Vilnius.
In November 2017, images emerged on the Facebook page of the Bishop of Passau Stefan Oster of Benedict XVI with a black eye; the bishop and author Peter Seewald visited the former pope on 26 October since the pair were presenting Benedict XVI with the new book Benedict XVI – The German Pope which the Passau diocese created. The former pope suffered the hematoma earlier after having slipped.
Titles and styles
The official style of the former Pope in English is His Holiness Benedict XVI, Supreme Pontiff Emeritus or Pope Emeritus. Less formally he is referred to as emeritus pope or Roman pontifex emeritus.
As pope, his rarely used full title was:
His Holiness Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Catholic Church in Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the servants of GOD.
The best-known title, that of “Pope”, does not appear in the official list of titles, but is commonly used in the titles of documents, and appears, in abbreviated form, in their signatures as “PP.” standing for “Papa” (“Pope”).
Before 1 March 2006, the list of titles also used to contain that of a “Patriarch of the West”, which traditionally appeared in that list of titles before “Primate of Italy”. The title of “Patriarch of the West” was first introduced into the papal court in 1870 at the time of the First Vatican Council in the publication Annuario Pontificio and was removed in the 2006 edition. Pope Benedict chose to remove the title at a time when discussions with the Orthodox churches have centered on the issue of papal primacy.
Positions on moral and political issues
Birth control and HIV/AIDS
In 2005, the Pope listed several ways to combat the spread of HIV, including chastity, fidelity in marriage and anti-poverty efforts; he also rejected the use of condoms. The alleged Vatican investigation of whether there are any cases when married persons may use condoms to protect against the spread of infections surprised many Catholics in the wake of John Paul II’s consistent refusal to consider condom use in response to AIDS. However, the Vatican has since stated that no such change in the Church’s teaching can occur. TIME also reported in its edition of 30 April 2006 that the Vatican’s position remains what it always has been with Vatican officials “flatly dismiss[ing] reports that the Vatican is about to release a document that will condone any condom use.”
In March 2009, the Pope stated:
I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help, the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it. The solution must have two elements: firstly, bringing out the human dimension of sexuality, that is to say a spiritual and human renewal that would bring with it a new way of behaving towards others, and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering, a willingness to make sacrifices and to practise self-denial, to be alongside the suffering.
In November 2010, in a book-length interview, the Pope, using the example of male prostitutes, stated that the use of condoms, with the intention of reducing the risk of HIV infection, may be an indication that the prostitute is intending to reduce the evil connected with his immoral activity. In the same interview, the Pope also reiterated the traditional teaching of the Church that condoms are not seen as a “real or moral solution” to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Further, in December 2010, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith explained that the Pope’s statement did not constitute a legitimization of either contraception or prostitution, which remains gravely immoral.
During his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Benedict XVI made several efforts to tackle the issue of homosexuality within the Church and the wider world. In 1986 the CDF sent a letter to all bishops entitled: On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. The letter condemned a liberal interpretation of the earlier CDF document Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, which had led to a “benign” attitude “to the homosexual condition itself”. On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons clarified that the Church’s position on homosexuality was that “although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” However the document also condemned homophobic attacks and violence, stating that “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”
In 1992, he again approved CDF documents declaring that homosexual “inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder” and extended this principle to civil law. “Sexual orientation”, the document said, was not equivalent to race or ethnicity, and it declared that it was “not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account.”
On 22 December 2008, the Pope gave an end of year message to the Roman Curia in which he talked about gender and the important distinction between men and women. The Pope said that the church viewed the distinction as central to human nature, and “asks that this order of creation be respected”. The church, he said, must “protect man from self-destruction.” He said “something like a human ecology” was needed, adding: “Rain forests deserve indeed to be protected, but no less so does man”. He attacked gender theories which he described as “man’s attempt at self-emancipation from creation and the Creator.”
LGBT groups such as the Italian Arcigay and German LSVD have announced that they found the Pope’s comments homophobic. Aurelio Mancuso, head of Arcigay, saying “A divine programme for men and women is out of line with nature, where the roles are not so clear.” Canadian author Daniel Gawthrop, in a critical biography, The Trial of Pope Benedict, said that the Pope blamed homosexuality “for a problem the church had willingly enabled for hundreds of years.”
Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, claimed the Pope had not wished specifically to attack people with homosexual inclinations, and had not mentioned gays or lesbians in his text. Father Lombardi insisted, however, that there had been an overreaction to the Pope’s remarks: “He was speaking more generally about gender theories which overlook the fundamental difference in creation between men and women and focus instead on cultural conditioning.” Nevertheless, the remarks were interpreted as a call to save mankind from homosexuals and transsexuals.
During a 2012 Christmas speech, the Pope made remarks about the present-day interpretation of the notion of “gender”. He stated that “sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves”, and “The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply”. Although he didn’t mention the topic, his words were interpreted by news media as denunciations of same-sex marriage, with some sources adding that Benedict would have called it a threat to world peace similar to abortion and euthanasia. In March 2012, he stated that heterosexual marriages should be defended from “every possible misrepresentation of their true nature”.
Migrants and refugees
In a message released 14 November 2006, during a Vatican press conference for the 2007 annual observance of World Day for Migrants and Refugees, the Pope urged the ratification of international conventions and policies that defend all migrants, including refugees, exiles, evacuees and internally displaced persons. “The church encourages the ratification of the international legal instruments that aim to defend the rights of migrants, refugees and their families,” the Pope said. “Much is already being done for the integration of the families of immigrants, although much still remains to be done.”
Pope Benedict also promoted various UN events, such as World Refugee Day, on which he offered up special prayers for refugees and called for the international community to do more to secure refugees’ human rights. He also called on Catholic communities and organizations to offer them concrete help.
In 2015, it was reported that the Pope was “praying for migrants and refugees” from Syria.
In 2007, Benedict sent a letter at Easter to Catholics in China that could have wide-ranging implications for the church’s relationship with China’s leadership. The letter provides long-requested guidance to Chinese bishops on how to respond to illicitly ordained bishops, as well as how to strengthen ties with the Patriotic Association and the Communist government.
On 13 November 2006, Benedict said that the dispute over the North Korea nuclear weapons program should be resolved through negotiations, in his first public comment on the security issue, a news report said. “The Holy See encourages bilateral or multilateral negotiations, convinced that the solution must be sought through peaceful means and in respect for agreements taken by all sides to obtain the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” Benedict was talking to the new Japanese ambassador to the Vatican.
In a 2004 Le Figaro interview, Ratzinger said that Turkey, which is demographically Muslim but governmentally secular by virtue of its state constitution, should seek its future in an association of Muslim nations rather than the European Union, which Ratzinger stated has Christian roots. He said Turkey had always been “in permanent contrast to Europe and that linking it to Europe would be a mistake”.
Later visiting the country to “reiterate the solidarity between the cultures,” it was reported that he made a counter-statement backing Turkey’s bid to join the EU. Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said that the Pope told him in their meeting that while the Vatican seeks to stay out of politics it desires Turkey’s membership in the EU. However, the Common Declaration of Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople implied that support for Turkey’s membership in the European Union would be contingent on the establishment of religious freedom in Turkey: “In every step towards unification, minorities must be protected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion.” The Declaration also reiterates Pope Benedict XVI’s call for Europe to preserve its Christian roots.
In May 2009, he visited Israel. This was the third Papal visit to the Holy Land, the previous ones being made by Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope John Paul II in 2000.
Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng met at the Vatican on 25 January 2007 in a “new and important step towards establishing diplomatic ties”. The Pope met with President Nguyễn Minh Triết on 11 December 2009. Vatican officials called the meeting “a significant stage in the progress of bilateral relations with Vietnam.”
In 2009, the Pope intervened in global economic and political affairs with his third encyclical, Charity in Truth (Latin Caritas in veritate), which can be viewed on the Vatican’s web site. This document set out the then reigning Pope’s position on the case for worldwide redistribution of wealth in considerable detail and goes on to discuss the environment, migration, terrorism, sexual tourism, bioethics, energy and population issues. The Financial Times reported that Benedict XVI’s advocacy for a fairer redistribution of wealth helped set the agenda for the 2009 July G8 summit.
Also included in Charity in Truth is advocacy for tax choice:
One possible approach to development aid would be to apply effectively what is known as fiscal subsidiarity, allowing citizens to decide how to allocate a portion of the taxes they pay to the State. Provided it does not degenerate into the promotion of special interests, this can help to stimulate forms of welfare solidarity from below, with obvious benefits in the area of solidarity for development as well.
Pope Benedict XVI called for nuclear disarmament. At the same time, he supported the peaceful use of nuclear energy as a tool for development and the fight against poverty. In his message for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he confirmed: “The Holy See, fully approving of the IAEA’s goal, has been a member from the organisation’s foundation and continues to support its activity.”
The following is a list of Papal encyclicals written by Pope Benedict XVI. A Papal encyclical is a letter usually treating some aspect of Catholic doctrine sent by the Pope and addressed to Catholic bishops.
- Deus caritas est (God is Love) (2006) Text
- Spe salvi (In Hope We Are Saved) (2007) Text
- Caritas in veritate (Charity in Truth) (2009) Text
The following is a list of books written by Pope Benedict XVI arranged chronologically by English first edition. The original German first edition publication year is included in brackets.
- Theological Highlights of Vatican II. New York: Paulist Press. 1966 . ISBN 978-0-8091-4610-9.
- Introduction to Christianity. London: Burns & Oats. 1968 . ISBN 978-0-223-97705-1.
- Faith and Future. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press. 1971 . ISBN 978-1-58617-219-0.
- The God of Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Triune God. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press. 1978 . ISBN 978-1-58617-184-1.
- Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church’s Marian Belief. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press. 1983 . ISBN 978-0-89870-026-8.
- Dogma and Preaching. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press. 1985 . ISBN 978-1-58617-327-2.
- Principles of Christian Morality. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1986 . ISBN 978-0-89870-086-2.
- Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1986 . ISBN 978-0-89870-056-5.
- The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1986 . ISBN 978-0-89870-080-0.
- Seek That Which Is Above: Meditations through the Year. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1986 . ISBN 978-1-58617-187-2.
- Behold the Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1986 . ISBN 978-0-89870-087-9.
- The Blessing of Christmas: Meditations for the Season. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1986. ISBN 978-1-58617-172-8.
- Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1987 . ISBN 978-0-89870-215-6.
- Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life. Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press. 1988 . ISBN 978-0-8132-1516-7.
- Church, Ecumenism and Politics: New Essays in Ecclesiology. New York: Crossroad. 1988 . ISBN 978-1-58617-217-6.
- Ministers of Your Joy: Scriptural Meditations on Priestly Spirituality. Ann Arbor: Redeemer Books. 1989 . ISBN 978-0-89283-654-3.
- The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press. 1989 . ISBN 978-0-8199-0415-7.
- To Look on Christ: Exercises in Faith, Hope, and Love. New York: Crossroad. 1991 . ISBN 978-0-8245-1064-0.
- A Turning Point for Europe?. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1994 . ISBN 978-1-58617-349-4.
- The Nature and Mission of Theology: Essays to Orient Theology in Today’s Debates. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1995 . ISBN 978-0-89870-538-6.
- In the Beginning…: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing. 1995 . ISBN 978-0-8028-4106-3.
- Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1996 . ISBN 978-0-89870-578-2.
- A New Song for the Lord: Faith in Christ in Liturgy Today. New York: Crossroad. 1997 . ISBN 978-0-8245-1536-2.
- Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1997 . ISBN 978-0-89870-640-6.
- Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1998 . ISBN 978-0-89870-702-1.
- Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1999 . ISBN 978-0-89870-753-3.
- The Spirit of the Liturgy. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2000 . ISBN 978-0-89870-784-7.
- God and the World. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2002 . ISBN 978-0-89870-868-4.
- God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2003 . ISBN 978-0-89870-962-9.
- Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2004 . ISBN 978-1-58617-035-6.
- Introduction to Christianity (revised edition). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2004 . ISBN 978-1-58617-029-5.
- Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2005 . ISBN 978-0-89870-963-6.
- Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Washington DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 2005. ISBN 978-1-57455-720-6.
- Mary: The Church at the Source. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2005 . ISBN 978-1-58617-018-9.
- Way of the Cross. Boston: Pauline Books & Media. 2005. ISBN 978-0-8198-8308-7.
- On the Way to Jesus Christ. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2005. ISBN 978-1-58617-124-7.
- Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2006 . ISBN 978-1-58617-142-1.
- Handing on the Faith in an Age of Disbelief. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2006 . ISBN 978-1-58617-143-8.
- Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2006 . ISBN 978-0-89870-964-3.
- God’s Revolution: Pope Benedict XVI’s Cologne Talks. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2006 . ISBN 978-1-58617-145-2.
- Values in a Time of Upheaval. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2006 . ISBN 978-0-8245-2373-2.
- God Is Love: Deus Caritas Est. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2006 . ISBN 978-1-58617-163-6.
- What It Means to Be a Christian. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2006 . ISBN 978-1-58617-133-9.
- Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam. San Francisco: Basic Books. 2006. ISBN 978-0-465-00627-4.
- On Conscience. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2007 . ISBN 978-1-58617-160-5.
- Europe: Today and Tomorrow. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2007 . ISBN 978-1-58617-134-6.
- New Outpourings of the Spirit. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2007 . ISBN 978-1-58617-181-0.
- Jesus of Nazareth. New York: Doubleday. 2007 . ISBN 978-0-385-52341-7.
- Jesus, the Apostles, and the Early Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2007. ISBN 978-1-58617-220-6.
- God’s Word: Scripture, Tradition, Office. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2008 . ISBN 978-1-58617-179-7.
- Saved in Hope: Spe Salvi. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2008 . ISBN 978-1-58617-251-0.
- The Fathers. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2008. ISBN 978-1-59276-440-2.
- Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2008. ISBN 978-1-58617-245-9.
- Charity in Truth: Caritas in Veritate. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2009 . ISBN 978-1-58617-280-0.
- Saint Paul. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2009 . ISBN 978-1-58617-367-8.
- The Joy of Knowing Christ: Meditations on the Gospels. Frederick: Word Among Us Press. 2009. ISBN 978-1-59325-151-2.
- Light of the World: The Pope, The Church, and the Signs of the Times. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2010. ISBN 978-1-58617-606-8.
- The Fathers, Volume II. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2010. ISBN 978-1-59276-783-0.
- The Apostles. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2010. ISBN 978-1-59276-799-1.
- The Virtues. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2010. ISBN 978-1-59276-794-6.
- Great Teachers. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2011. ISBN 978-1-59276-536-2.
- Holiness Is Always in Season. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2011. ISBN 978-1-58617-444-6.
- Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2011. ISBN 978-1-58617-500-9.
- Holy Women. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2011. ISBN 978-1-61278-510-3.
- Doctors of the Church. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2011. ISBN 978-1-61278-576-9.
- Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. Colorado Springs: Image Books. 2012. ISBN 978-0385346405.
- The Faith. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2013. ISBN 978-1612786674.
- Prayer. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 2013. ISBN 978-1612787091.