Pope Benedict XVI

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Benedict XVI
Name Joseph Alois Ratzinger
Papacy began April 19, 2005
Papacy ended Incumbent
Predecessor John Paul II
Successor Incumbent
Born April 16, 1927
Place of birth Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Germany
Styles of
Pope Benedict XVI
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style not applicable

Pope Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus PP. XVI; born April 16, 1927, as Joseph Alois Ratzinger in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Germany) is the 265th reigning pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City. He was elected on April 19, 2005, in a papal conclave over which he presided in his capacity as dean of the College of Cardinals. He celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on April 24, 2005, and was enthroned in the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano) on May 7, 2005.

One of the most influential academic theologians since the 1960s and author of many books, he is viewed as conservative and a close ally of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. He served as professor at various German universities, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean of the College of Cardinals before becoming Pope.

In response to an increasing de-Christianization in many developed countries, where secular humanism, secularism, and secularization are influential, the Pope particularly emphasizes what he sees as the need for Europe to turn back to its fundamental Christian values.



Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI was elected pope at the age of 78. He is the oldest person to have been elected pope since Clement XII in 1730. He served longer as a cardinal before being elected pope than any pope since Benedict XIII (elected 1724). He is the ninth German pope, the last being the Dutch-German Adrian VI (15221523). The last pope named Benedict was Benedict XV, an Italian who reigned from 1914 to 1922, during World War I.

Ratzinger was born in Bavaria, Germany. He had a distinguished career as a university theologian before being made the archbishop of Munich and Freising; he was subsequently made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in the consistory of June 27, 1977. He was appointed as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and was made the cardinal bishop of the suburbicarian diocese of Velletri-Segni on April 5, 1993. In 1998, he was made the sub-dean of the College of Cardinals; later, on November 30, 2002, he became the dean and simultaneously the cardinal bishop of the suburbicarian diocese of Ostia. He was the first dean of the college elected pope since Paul IV in 1555 and the first cardinal bishop elected pope since Pius VIII in 1829.

Before becoming pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was already one of the most influential men in the Vatican, and was a close associate of the late John Paul II. He presided over the funeral of John Paul II and also over the Mass immediately preceding the 2005 conclave in which he was elected, in which he called on the assembled cardinals to hold fast to the doctrine of the faith. He was the public face of the church in much of the sede vacante period, although he ranked below the camerlengo in administrative authority during that time.

Benedict XVI's views appear to be similar to those of his predecessor in maintaining the traditional Catholic doctrines on artificial birth control, abortion, and homosexuality while promoting Catholic social teaching.

Benedict speaks German, Italian and French fluently, and English, Spanish and Latin slightly less fluently. He can read ancient Greek and classical Hebrew. He is a member of a large number of academies, such as the French Académie des sciences morales et politiques. He plays the piano and has a preference for Mozart and Beethoven.

Early life (1927–1951)

Main article: Early life of Pope Benedict XVI

Background and childhood (1927–1943)

Ratzinger as a boy
Ratzinger as a boy

Joseph Alois Ratzinger was born on Holy Saturday, at Schulstrasse 11, his parents' home in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria. His mother recovered from the birth soon enough to take him to be baptized at the Easter Vigil Mass later that evening. He was the third and youngest child of Joseph Ratzinger, Sr., a police officer, and his wife, Maria Ratzinger (nee Peintner), who worked as a barmaid, and whose family were from South Tyrol (today part of Italy). His father served in both the Bavarian State Police (Landespolizei) and the German national Regular Police (Ordnungspolizei) before retiring in 1937 to the town of Traunstein. The Sunday Times of London described the elder Ratzinger as "an anti-Nazi whose attempts to rein in Hitler's Sturmabteilung forced the family to move several times." [1]. According to the International Herald Tribune, these relocations were directly related to Joseph Ratzinger, Sr.'s continued resistance to Nazism, which resulted in demotions and transfers. [2] The pope's brother Georg said: "Our father was a bitter enemy of Nazism because he believed it was in conflict with our faith." [3].

Ratzinger was born at a house in Marktl am Inn.
Ratzinger was born at a house in Marktl am Inn.

Pope Benedict's brother, Georg, is still living. His sister, Maria Ratzinger, who never married, managed her brother Joseph's household until her death in 1991. Their grand uncle Georg Ratzinger was a priest and member of the Reichstag, as the German Parliament was called then. The pope's relatives agree that his ambitions to serve in the upper echelons of the Church were apparent since childhood. At age five, Ratzinger was in a group of children who presented the Archbishop of Munich with flowers; later that day he announced he wanted to be a cardinal. (See also Early life of Pope Benedict XVI.)

According to his cousin Erika Kopp, Ratzinger had no desire from childhood to be anything other than a priest. When he was 15, she says, he announced that he was going to be a bishop, whereupon she playfully remarked, 'And why not Pope?'.

When Ratzinger turned 14 he was forced by law to join the Hitler Youth (membership was legally required from December 1936[4].) According to the National Catholic Reporter correspondent and biographer John Allen, Ratzinger was an unenthusiastic member who refused to attend meetings. Ratzinger has mentioned that a Nazi mathematics professor arranged reduced tuition payments for him at seminary. This normally required documentation of attendance at Hitler Youth activities; however, according to Ratzinger, his sympathetic professor arranged things so that he did not have to attend to receive a scholarship.

Military service (1943–1945)

In 1943, when he was 16, Ratzinger was drafted with many of his classmates into the FlaK (anti-aircraft artillery corps). They guarded various facilities including a BMW aircraft engine plant north of Munich and, later, the jet fighter base at Gilching, where Ratzinger served in telephone communications. After his class was released from the Corps in September 1944, Ratzinger was put to work setting up anti-tank defences in the Hungarian border area of Austria in preparation for the expected Red Army offensive. When his unit was released from service in November 1944, he went home for three weeks, and then was drafted into the German army at Munich to receive basic infantry training in the nearby town of Traunstein. His unit served at various posts around the city and was never sent to the front.

Ratzinger was briefly interned in a prisoner-of-war camp near Ulm and was repatriated on June 19, 1945. The family was reunited when his brother, Georg, returned after being repatriated from a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy.

Education (1946–1951)

Ratzinger studied at Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein, Germany.
Ratzinger studied at Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein, Germany.

After he was repatriated in 1945, he and his brother entered Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein, and then studied at the Ducal Georgianum (Herzogliches Georgianum) of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. According to an interview with Peter Seewald, he and his fellow students were particularly influenced by the works of Gertrud von le Fort, Ernst Wiechert, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Elisabeth Langgässer, Theodor Steinbüchel, Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers. The young Ratzinger saw the last three in particular as a break with the dominance of Neo-Kantianism, with the key work being Steinbüchel's Die Wende des Denkens ("The Change in Thinking"). By the end of his studies he was drawn more to the active Saint Augustine than to Thomas Aquinas, and among the scholastics he was more interested in Saint Bonaventure.

On June 29, 1951, he and his brother were ordained by Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber of Munich. His dissertation (1953) was on Saint Augustine, entitled "The People and the House of God in Augustine's Doctrine of the Church," and his Habilitationsschrift (a dissertation which serves as qualification for a professorship) was on Saint Bonaventure. It was completed in 1957 and he became a professor of Freising College in 1958.

Early church career (1951–1981)

Ratzinger offers an oath of submission at the September 1978 papal inauguration of John Paul I.
Ratzinger offers an oath of submission at the September 1978 papal inauguration of John Paul I.

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, where his inaugural lecture was given in a packed lecture hall, as he was already well known as a theologian. At the Second Vatican Council (19621965), Ratzinger served as a peritus or theological consultant to Josef Cardinal Frings of Cologne, Germany, and has continued to defend the council, including Nostra Aetate, the document on respect of other religions and the declaration of the right to religious freedom. He was viewed during the time of the council as a reformer. (Later, as the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger most clearly spelled out the Catholic Church's position on other religions in the document Dominus Iesus (2000) which also talks about the proper way to engage in ecumenical dialogue.)

Ratzinger is given a formal farewell as he leaves the Archdiocese of Munich to become the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on February 28, 1982.
Ratzinger is given a formal farewell as he leaves the Archdiocese of Munich to become the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on February 28, 1982.

In 1966, he took 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 downplayed the centrality of the papacy. He also wrote that the church of the time was too centralized, rule-bound and overly controlled from Rome. These sentences, however, did not appear in later editions of the book. During this time, he distanced himself from the atmosphere of Tübingen and the Marxist leanings of the student movement of the 1960s, that in Germany 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 (decreasing respect for authority among his students, the rise of the German gay rights movement) as related to a departure from traditional Catholic teachings. Increasingly, his views, despite his reformist bent, contrasted with those liberal ideas gaining currency in the theological academy.[5] In 1969 he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg.

Ratzinger with John Paul II in 2003.
Ratzinger with John Paul II in 2003.

In 1972, he founded the theological journal Communio with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Walter Kasper and others. Communio, now published in seventeen editions (German, English, Spanish and many others), has become a prominent journal of Catholic thought. He remains one of the journal's most prolific contributors.

In March 1977 Ratzinger was named archbishop of Munich and Freising. According to his autobiography, Milestones, he took as his episcopal motto Cooperatores Veritatis, co-workers of the Truth, from 3 John: 8.

In the consistory of June 1977 he was named a cardinal 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, and one of only two who participated in the conclave, the other being Cardinal Baum.

Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1981–2005)

Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

On November 25, 1981, Pope John Paul II named Ratzinger prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition. He resigned the Munich archdiocese in early 1982. Already a cardinal priest, he was raised to Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993. He became vice-dean of the College of Cardinals in 1998, and dean in 2002.

In office, Ratzinger usually took traditional views on topics such as birth control, homosexuality, and inter-religious dialogue. Among other things, he played a key role in silencing outspoken liberation theologians and clergy in Latin America in the 1980s.

(See also Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.)


In the early 1990s Ratzinger suffered a stroke which slightly impaired his eyesight temporarily. The existence of the stroke had been known during the conclave that elected him pope. In May 2005, the Vatican revealed that he had subsequently suffered another mild stroke - it did not reveal when, other than that it occurred between 2003 and 2005. France's Philippe Cardinal Barbarin further revealed that since the first stroke, Ratzinger has suffered from a heart condition. Because of his health problems, Ratzinger had hoped to retire, but had continued in his position in obedience to the wishes of Pope John Paul II.[6]

Response to sex abuse scandal

As Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the sexual abuse of minors by priests was his responsibility to investigate from 2001, when that charge was given to the CDF by Pope John Paul. [7]

On May 18, 2001, Ratzinger, as part of the implementation of the norms enacted and promulgated [8] on April 30, 2001 by Pope John Paul II, sent a Latin language letter [9] to every bishop in the Catholic Church reminding them of the strict penalties facing those who revealed confidential details concerning enquiries into allegations against priests of certain grave ecclesiastical crimes, including sexual abuse, reserved to the jurisdiction of the CDF. The letter extended the prescription (statute of limitations) for these crimes to ten years. However, when the crime is sexual abuse of a minor, the "prescription begins to run from the day on that which the minor completes the eighteenth year of age." [10] Lawyers acting for two alleged victims of abuse in Texas claim that by sending the letter the cardinal conspired to obstruct justice. [11] However, the letter did not discourage victims from reporting the abuse itself to the police; the secrecy related to the internal investigation. "The letter said the new norms reflected the CDF's traditional “exclusive competence” regarding delicta graviora—Latin for “graver offenses.” According to canon law experts in Rome, reserving cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors to the CDF is something new. In past eras, some serious crimes by priests against sexual morality, including pedophilia, were handled by that congregation or its predecessor, the Holy Office, but this has not been true in recent years." [12] The promulgation of the norms by Pope John Paul II and the subsequent letter by the then Prefect of the CDF were published in 2001 in Acta Apostolicae Sedis [13] which, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law [14], is the Holy See's official journal, disseminated monthly to thousands of libraries and offices around the world. [15]

In 2002, Ratzinger accurately told the Catholic News Service that "less than one percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type." [16] Opponents saw this as ignoring the crimes of those who committed the abuse; others saw it as merely pointing out that this should not taint other priests who live respectable lives. [17] A report by the Catholic Church itself estimated that some 4,450 of the Roman Catholic clergy who served between 1950 and 2002 have faced credible accusations of abuse. [18] His Good Friday reflections in 2005 were interpreted as strongly condemning and regretting the abuse scandals, which largely put to rest the speculation of indifference. Shortly after his election, he told Francis Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago, that he would attend to the matter. [19]

Dialogue with other faiths

In 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a document entitled Dominus Iesus which reaffirmed the historic doctrine and mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel. This was misunderstood by some who mistakenly believed that the Church had previously repudiated its unique role in the world. [20]

This document pointed out the danger to the Church of relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism by denying that God has revealed truth to humanity. (par. 4)

Addressing the question that one religion is as a good as another (syncretism or indifferentism) it states: ...followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation. (par.22)

The deliberate omission of the "filioque" clause ("and the Son") in the first paragraph [21] is seen as an outreach to Orthodox Church which has been in conflict with the Roman Catholic Church over its addition to the Nicene Creed for about one thousand years.[22]

The World Jewish Congress "welcomed" his election to the pontificate, noted "his great sensitivity to the Jewish history and the Holocaust," and quoted the Pope in its press release:

Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah (Holocaust) was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel, it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to this atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians. [23]

The Dalai Lama congratulated Pope Benedict XVI upon his election. [24]

In an interview in 2004 for Le Figaro magazine, Ratzinger said Turkey, a country Muslim by heritage and staunchly secularist by its state constitution, should seek its future in an association of Islamic nations rather than the EU, which has Christian roots. He said Turkey had always been "in permanent contrast to Europe" and that linking it to Europe would be a mistake.[25]

His defenders argue that it is to be expected that a leader within the Catholic Church would forcefully and explicitly argue in favor of the superiority of Catholicism over other religions. Others also maintain that single quotes from Dominus Iesus are not indicative of intolerance or an unwillingness to engage in dialogue with other faiths, and this is clear from a reading of the entire document. They point out that Ratzinger has been very active in promoting inter-faith dialogue. Specifically, they argue that Ratzinger has been instrumental at encouraging reconciliation with Lutherans. In defending Dominus Iesus, Ratzinger himself has stated that his belief is that inter-faith dialogue should take place on the basis of equal human dignity, but that equality of human dignity should not imply that each side is equally correct.

Ratzinger and Fatima

Ratzinger's Article
Ratzinger's Article

Ratzinger has long been tied into the message of Our Lady of Fatima to three young Portuguese children. Notably, until her death, Lúcia dos Santos was under orders from the Vatican not to discuss the Fatima revelations publicly unless given leave by Cardinal Ratzinger, one of seven people known to have read the actual Third Message put into writing in 1944, and author of the Theological Commentary on the Third Message, one of four canon sourceworks kept alongside the Message.

In 1984, an interview with Ratzinger was published in the Pauline Sisters newsletter and that it deals with "dangers threatening the faith and the life of the Christian and therefore of the world", while stating that it marks the beginning of the end-times. A year later the interview was re-published in The Ratzinger Report, though several statements were omitted — either for editorial reasons, or clandestine conspiratorial reasons, depending on the party asked.

Ratzinger and Bertone at the 2000 press conference.
Ratzinger and Bertone at the 2000 press conference.

In October 1987 he stated that "the things contained in [the] Third Secret correspond to what has been announced in Scripture and has been said again and again in many other Marian apparitions; first of all, that of Fatima in what is already known of what its message contains, conversion and penitence are the essential conditions for salvation".

In 1997, Ratzinger and Capovilla publicly stated that the Third Message was not being withheld for fears it would condemn the changes of the Vatican II council.

On June 26, 2000, following the release of the text of the prophecy, Ratzinger issued a joint statement with Cardinal Bertone that the third and final chapter of Mary's prophecy had been fulfilled in 1981 in a failed attempt on the Pope's life; critics point out however that a year after the attempted assassination, Lúcia told the Pope that the third prophecy had still not been fulfilled. He was quoted in the media as stating, "No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled. A careful reading of the text will probably prove disappointing."


Not knowing that within a few weeks he would ascend the Throne of St. Peter himself, Ratzinger presided over the 2005 Easter Vigil Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in place of Pope John Paul II.
Not knowing that within a few weeks he would ascend the Throne of St. Peter himself, Ratzinger presided over the 2005 Easter Vigil Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in place of Pope John Paul II.

Election to the Papacy


On January 2, 2005, Time magazine quoted unnamed Vatican sources as saying that Ratzinger was a frontrunner to succeed John Paul II should the pope 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 magazine. Ratzinger himself had repeatedly stated he would like to retire to a Bavarian village and dedicate himself to writing books, but more recently, he told friends he was ready to "accept any charge God placed on him."

Piers Paul Read wrote in The Spectator on March 5, 2005:

There can be little doubt that his courageous promotion of orthodox Catholic teaching has earned him the respect of his fellow cardinals throughout the world. He is patently holy, highly intelligent and sees clearly what is at stake. Indeed, for those who blame the decline of Catholic practice in the developed world precisely on the propensity of many European bishops to hide their heads in the sand, a pope who confronts it may be just what is required. Ratzinger is no longer young—he is 78 years old: but Angelo Roncalli, who revolutionized Catholicism by calling the Second Vatican Council was almost the same age (76) when he became pope as John XXIII. As Jeff Israely, the correspondent of Time, was told by a Vatican insider last month, "The Ratzinger solution is definitely on."

However, Papal predictions in modern history had often been wrong, with the most popular candidates often losing the election in favor of a more unknown, obscure cardinal.


Benedict XVI appears on the balcony shortly after his election.
Benedict XVI appears on the balcony shortly after his election.

On April 19, 2005 Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II on the second day of the papal conclave after four ballots. Coincidentally, April 19 is the feast of St. Leo IX, a German pope who instituted major reforms in the Middle Ages during his pontificate.

Cardinal 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." [26]

Before his first appearance at the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica after becoming pope, he was announced by the Jorge Cardinal Medina Estévez, protodeacon of the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Medina Estévez first addressed the massive crowd as "dear(est) brothers and sisters" in Italian, Spanish, French, German and English — each language receiving cheers from the international crowd — before continuing with the traditional Habemus Papam announcement in Latin.

Benedict's installation mass on St. Peter's Square.
Benedict's installation mass on St. Peter's Square.

At the balcony, Benedict's first words to the crowd, before he gave the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing, were:

Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord.
The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.
In the joy of the Risen Lord, let us move forward, confident of his unfailing help. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you. (translation from original Italian).

He then gave the blessing to the people.

On April 24, he was inaugurated in St. Peters, formally becoming the 265th pope by the official Vatican reckoning. (Some sources, such as the Catholic Encyclopedia and a number of church historians, additionally count Pope Stephen II, who died before being consecrated.) Then on May 7 he was enthroned in a mass at Saint John Lateran Basilica.

Choice of name

The choice of the name Benedict (Latin "the blessed") is significant. Benedict XVI used his first General Audience in St. Peter's Square, on April 27, 2005, to explain to the world on why he chose the name:

"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 Norcia, 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!" [27]

Some commentators see also an influence of the Prophecy of Saint Malachy, purportedly given in A.D. 1139, which contains a list of future popes. According to this argument, a name of Benedict would fulfill this prophecy.

Early days of Papacy

Angelo Cardinal Sodano kisses the ring of the new Pope for the first time at his installation mass.
Angelo Cardinal Sodano kisses the ring of the new Pope for the first time at his installation mass.

Pope Benedict has confounded the expectations of many in the early days of his papacy by his gentle public persona and his promise to listen. It is notable that he has used an open popemobile, saying that he wants to be closer to the people.

Benedict's coat of arms have officially omitted the papal tiara, traditionally appearing in the background to designate the Pope's position and replaced it with a simple mitre.[28] However, there have been papal documents since his inauguration that have been appearing with the papal tiara present. Since it is the shield and not the background which is unique to the individual Pope, various backgrounds are possible (though rarely used) for even a single shield.

During his inaugural Mass, the previous custom of all the cardinals submitting was replaced by having 12 people, representing cardinals, clergy, religious, a married couple and their child, and newly confirmed people, submit to him. However, all the cardinals had already sworn their obedience upon his election. In a return to tradition, Benedict chose to resurrect the ancient tradition of the red papal shoes and to delegate the celebration of the beatification liturgies.


As Pope, Benedict XVI's main role is to teach about the Catholic faith and the solutions to the problems of the faith, a role that he can play well being a former head of the Church's Congregation of the Faith. The emphases of his teachings are stated in more detail in Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.

Friendship with Jesus Christ

According to commentators, during the Inaugural Mass, the core of his message, the most moving and famous part, is found in the last paragraph of his homily where he referred to both Jesus Christ and John Paul II. After referring to John Paul II's well-known words (Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!), Benedict XVI says:

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. [29]

"Friendship with Jesus Christ" is a theme of his preaching which is found in many of his homilies and his addresses. For example, his address to the priests of Rome, his diocese as bishop: [30] and to the cardinals in the pre-conclave, a key public address to the Church's top leaders: [31] He also said: "Truly we are all able, we are all called to open ourselves to this friendship with God... speaking to him as to a friend, knowing well that the Lord really is the true friend of everyone, even of those who cannot do great things on their own...that God is working today, and that 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." [32]

"Dictatorship of relativism"

Continuing what he said in the pre-conclave Mass about what he has often referred to as the "central problem of our faith today": [33] the world "moving towards a dictatorship of relativism", [34] on June 6, 2005 he 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, recognizing 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 also traced the failed revolutions and ideologies of the 20th century to a conversion of partial points of view into absolute guides: "Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is called totalitarianism," he said during World Youth Day.

Christianity as the Religion according to Reason

Ratzinger debates with German philosopher Jürgen Habermas at the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, Germany in 2004.
Ratzinger debates with German philosopher Jürgen Habermas at the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, Germany in 2004.

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 Word (in the original Greek, Logos, reason, meaning, intelligence).

"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." [35]

In an address to a conference of the Diocese of Rome held at St. John Lateran basilica on June 6, 2005, Benedict remarked on the issues of same-sex marriage and abortion:

"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," he said.[36]

Curial appointments

Papal Arms of Pope Benedict XVI. The papal tiara was replaced with a bishop's mitre, and pallium of the Pope was added beneath the coat of arms.
Papal Arms of Pope Benedict XVI. The papal tiara was replaced with a bishop's mitre, and pallium of the Pope was added beneath the coat of arms.

Upon becoming Pope, Benedict reappointed all former officers of the Roman Curia under John Paul II to new terms, their terms having ended with the papacy. This assured an easy transition into new government. The highest of those appointments are those considered to be Benedict XVI's prime ministers: Angelo Cardinal Sodano of Italy who serves as Cardinal Secretary of State and Edmund Cardinal Szoka of the United States who serves as Governor of Vatican City.

Benedict XVI's only major new appointment was that of his successor as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Early speculation included the names of Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna in Austria and Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago in the United States. Both were renowned for their knowledge of Church doctrine and were considered among the more conservative members of the College of Cardinals.

On May 13, 2005, Benedict XVI appointed a non-Cardinal, William Joseph Levada, Archbishop of San Francisco in the United States. Renowned for his knowledge of Church doctrine due to his office as principal editor of the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, Levada is considered by some to be even more staunchly conservative than all the Pope's choices within the College of Cardinals. Levada relinquished his see in San Francisco on August 17, 2005 and is expected to be raised in consistory to the title of Cardinal.

Due to the immense influence wielded by the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—arguably more immense than that of the Pope's own prime ministers—Benedict XVI's appointment of an American in effect raises the United States into greater prominence in the universal Church. That fact sparked many fears that the United States was being given too much power in the Church; people worldwide generally express uneasiness that the United States already dominates global politics. It is for that reason that Americans are never considered papabile.


Benedict XVI oversaw his first beatification on May 14, 2005, honoring Mother Marianne Cope of Hawaii with the title Blessed. He wore a traditional Hawaiian maile lei as a stole for the occasion.
Benedict XVI oversaw his first beatification on May 14, 2005, honoring Mother Marianne Cope of Hawaii with the title Blessed. He wore a traditional Hawaiian maile lei as a stole for the occasion.

On May 13, 2005, Benedict XVI made his first promulgation of the beatification process. The honoree of the process was his predecessor, John Paul II. Normally five years pass before the beatification process begins for a person after his or her death but due to the popularity of John Paul II — devotees chanted "Santo subito!" meaning "Saint now!" during the late pontiff's funeral — Benedict XVI waived the custom and officially styled the late pope with the title given to all those being scrutinized in the beatification process, Servant of God.

Upon the confirmation after scrutiny that the late pontiff's life is found morally clean and manifests heroic virtues, a decree of heroicity will be proclaimed and John Paul II will be declared Venerable on the road to beatification. Before changes in canon law in 1917, the title Venerable was given at the same time a person was declared Servant of God. Upon the confirmation of miracles attributed to the honoree, John Paul II would then be declared Blessed. It is not permitted to celebrate a person officially in Mass until he or she achieves the title of Blessed.

The next day, on May 14, Benedict XVI made his first official beatification, raising Mother Marianne Cope — who served with Blessed Damien of Molokai helping those suffering from leprosy in what is now the Diocese of Honolulu in Hawaii — to the title of "Blessed Marianne of Molokai." She was the first addition to the calendar of saints by Benedict XVI, who announced an optional feast to be celebrated in her honor annually on January 23. Blessed Damien and Blessed Marianne are the patrons of HIV/AIDS and outcasts. Both are expected to become the first saints of the Hawaiian Islands. Mother Ascensión Nicol Goñi was also beatified on the same day.

Unlike his predecessor, Benedict XVI delegated the beatification liturgical service to a principal aide, José Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The reason for this is that the Pope wishes to preserve the distinction between beatifications and canoniztions.

On June 16, 2005, it was learned that the planned beatification of a French priest, Fr. Leon Dehon, had been suspended by the Vatican after complaints about anti-Semitism in his writings. The Vatican decided to further study the life and writings of the Fr. Dehon, who died in 1925 and who had founded the priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus religious order. The beatification was postponed originally due to the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2, 2005. The move came after a French Catholic newspaper, La Croix, reported that some of his writings contained anti-Semitic passages. La Croix quoted his writings as saying Jews were "united in their hatred of Jesus" and were enemies of Christians, and that anti-Semitism was a "sign of hope."

The possibility of declaring Fr. Dehon a saint has been under consideration by the church for decades. The process began formally in 1939. The church declared his virtues in 1983, and John Paul gave him the title "venerable" in 1997 after the Church accepted that an electrician in Brazil had been miraculously cured of an illness in 1954 after prayers were directed to him. However, France's government had put the Vatican on notice that it would not send a representative to the beatification, and the French bishops' conference urged the Vatican to act with caution, according to French newspaper reports. [37].

For many in the Catholic community who had been concerned about the rapidity of the beatification process during the reign of Pope John Paul II, this incident seemed to indicate that the management of the practise of canonizing saints will be more measured and, possibly, less inclined to speed up the process.

On June 19, 2005, Benedict XVI beatified Father Ladisłaus Findysz, a martyr of the Communist regime, Father Bronisław Markiewicz, the founder of the Congregation of St. Michael, and Father Ignacy Kłopotowski, the founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Loreto. Benedict XVI had delegated Józef Cardinal Glemp of Warsaw to preside over the beatification liturgy, which took place at Piłsudski Square in Warsaw. The beatifications were originally scheduled for April 24, 2005, but were delayed because of the death of Pope John Paul II. Pope John Paul II had also started the process of the beatifications of the above Poles, but Benedict XVI had to complete the process.

On October 9, 2005, Benedict XVI beatified Clemens August Graf von Galen of Germany. Cardinal von Galen (nicknamed the "Lion of Munster") was an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime and an opponent of Soviet Communism. The Holy Father said that the German cardinal had "feared God more than man."

Once again, Benedict XVI delegated Cardinal Saraiva Martins to preside over the beatification mass at St. Peter's Basilica.

Saraiva Martins presided over the Mass of Beatifiction on October 29, 2005 in which Benedict XVI declared Fr. Jose Tapies Sirvant and his companions Francisco Castells Bruenuy, Jose Boher Fiox, Jose Juan Perot Juanmarti, Pascual Araguas Guardia, Pedro Martret Molet, and Silvestre Arnau Pascuet, martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, and Maria de los Angeles Ginard Marti, a member of the Congregation of Sisters Zealous of Eucaristic Devotion who likewise was a martyr of the Spanish Civil War, "blesseds" of the Church.


Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his first Mass of Canonization on October 23, 2005 in St. Peter's Square when he canonized Josef Bilczewski of Poland and Ukraine, Archbishop of Lviv (Lwów); Gaetano Catanoso of Italy, priest and founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Veronica (also known as the Missionaries of the Holy Face); Zygmunt Gorazdowski of Poland and Ukraine, priest and founder of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph; Alberto Hurtado of Chile, priest of the Society of Jesus, and Felice Da Nicosia of Italy, lay member of the Capuchins. The canonization was part of a Mass that marked the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops and the Year of the Eucharist.

Apostolic journeys

Pope Benedict XVI participated in a Mass attended by 1,000,000+ people in Cologne, Germany, during the World Youth Day. This marked the pontiff's first apostolic journey. The Pope was greeted as 'Benedetto' (italian for Benedict) by the crowds.
Pope Benedict XVI participated in a Mass attended by 1,000,000+ people in Cologne, Germany, during the World Youth Day. This marked the pontiff's first apostolic journey. The Pope was greeted as 'Benedetto' (italian for Benedict) by the crowds.
  • Italy (May 29, 2005): Pope Benedict visited the Italian port of Bari and pledged to make the reconciliation with the Eastern Orthodox Church a "fundamental" commitment of his papacy. Benedict made the pledge in a city closely tied to the Orthodox Church. Bari, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, is considered a “bridge” between East and West and is home to the relics of St. Nicholas of Myra, a 4th-century saint who is one of the most popular in both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. The Pope referred to Bari as a "land of meeting and dialog" with the Orthodox Church in his homily at a Mass that closed a national religious conference. It was his first pilgrimage outside Rome since being elected the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church on April 19.
  • Germany (August 18 to August 21, 2005): The Pope arrived in Germany on August 18 in order to participate in the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne. There he met with President Horst Köhler, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, leader of the Opposition Angela Merkel and others, and visited the famous Cologne Cathedral. The Pope visited the synagogue of the Jewish community in Cologne, which is the oldest Jewish community in the world north of the Alps. Along with his immediate predecessor John Paul II, Benedict is only the second pope since St Peter known to have visited a synagogue. He also spoke with representatives of the Muslim and Protestant communities of Cologne. On August 21 he led a mass at Marienfeld with about 1,000,000 youths present.

See also

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  1. ^  Justin Sparks, John Follain, and Christopher Morgan, "Papal hopeful is a former Hitler Youth," The Sunday Times, April 17, 2005.
  2. ^  Richard Bernstein, and Mark Landler, "A cardinal's visit put boy on path to the Vatican," New York Times, April 22, 2005.
  3. ^  Richard Bernstein, and Mark Landler, "A future pope is recalled: A lover of cats and Mozart, dazzled by church as a boy," New York Times, April 22, 2005.
  4. ^  "Hitler Youth: Prelude to War (1933–1938)," The History Place.
  5. ^  Daniel J Wakin, "Turbulence on Campus in 60's Hardened Views of Future Pope," New York Times, April 24, 2005 (accessed June 8, 2005)
  6. ^  "Pope has had second stroke", The Sunday Times, (London) May 1, 2005.
  7. ^  Jamie Doward, "The Pope, the letter and the child sex claim," The Guardian, April 24, 2005.
  8. ^  Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, The Vatican, April 30, 2001.
  9. ^  Epistula ad totius Catholicae Ecclesiae Episcopos aliosque Ordinarios et Hierarchas interesse habentes de delictis gravioribus eidem Congregationi pro Doctrina Fidei reservatis, The Vatican, May 18, 2001.
  10. ^  www.bishop-accountability.org Unofficial translation of Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela by the USCCB and a translation of the Norms by Gregory Ingels, both revised by Joseph R. Punderson and Charles J. Scicluna. The new norms (like the American norms) consider a minor to be anyone under the age of 18—a wider definition than in the Code of Canon Law, where minors are below the age of 16.
  11. ^  Jamie Doward, "Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry," The Guardian, April 24, 2005.
  12. ^  "Signs of the Times: Doctrinal Congregation Takes Over Priestly Pedophilia Cases", Catholic News Service, December 17, 2001.
  13. ^  Acta Apostolicae Sedis 93 (2001): 737–39, 785–88.
  14. ^  Code of Canon Law: Canon 8, §1, The Vatican.
  15. ^  CanonLaw.info, April 29, 2005 update to Much Ado About Nothing by Dr Edward Peters, JCD, JD
  16. ^  "Cardinal Ratzinger ... Sees Agenda Behind the Reporting in U.S.," Zenit News Agency, December 3, 2002.
  17. ^  Vatican Transcript of Meditation on the Ninth Station of the Cross, The Vatican.
  18. ^  See note 8 above.
  19. ^  See note 8 above.
  20. ^  Justin Sparks, and John Follain, "Nazi link may dog favourite," The Australian, April 18, 2005.
  21. ^  "the official Latin text." Accessed July 7, 2005.
  22. ^  "The Filioque: A Church-dividing Issue? An agreed statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation", North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, October 25, 2003.
  23. ^  "Election of Cardinal Ratzinger as new Pope welcomed," World Jewish Congress, April 19, 2005.
  24. ^  "His Holiness the Dalai Lama Greets New Pope," Phayul.com, April 20, 2005; Korean Catholics Welcome New Pontiff," english.chosun.com, April 20, 2005.
  25. ^  Jim Bencivenga, "Navigating a clash of civilizations: Examining the new pope's old comments on Turkey's entry into the European Union," Christian Science Monitor, April 22, 2005.
  26. ^  http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/04/25/pope.monday/ Quote from a CNN Interview, April 25, 2005.
  27. ^  Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience Speech, The Vatican, April 27, 2005.
  28. ^  Coat of Arms of His Holiness Benedict XVI, The Vatican.
  29. ^  Nicole Winfield, "Pope Benedict XVI condemns same-sex unions," The Guardian, June 6, 2005.
  30. ^  Alan Cooperman, "Pope Halts Beatification of French Priest", Washington Post, June 16, 2005.

Books and theological writings

Main article (with original titles and English translations): Works of Pope Benedict XVI
  • Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today. 1996.
  • Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life. Dogmatic Theology series. Michael Waldstein, Trans. 1988.
  • God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald. 2002.
  • God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. 2003.
  • In the Beginning….: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall. 1995.
  • Introduction to Christianity. 1968, new edition 2000.
  • Journey to Easter. (Forthcoming)
  • Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, The Church, and the World. 1999.
  • Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977. 1998.
  • Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church. 1985.
  • Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium, An Interview With Peter Seewald. 1997.
  • Spirit of the Liturgy. 2000.
  • Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions. 2004.
  • Values in a Time of Upheaval. 2005


  • Allen, John L.: Cardinal Ratzinger: the Vatican's enforcer of the faith. – New York: Continuum, 2000
  • Nichols OP, Aidan: Theology of Joseph Ratzinger. – Edinburgh; T&T Clark, 1988
  • Wagner, Karl: Kardinal Ratzinger: der Erzbischof in München und Freising in Wort und Bild. – München : Pfeiffer, 1977
  • Pater Prior Maximilian Heim: Joseph Ratzinger - Kirchliche Existenz und existenzielle Theologie unter dem Anspruch von Lumen gentium (diss.).
  • Herrmann, Horst: Benedikt XVI. Der neue Papst aus Deutschland. – Berlin 2005


  • Allen, John L. (2005) Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0826417868
  • Bardazzi, Marco (2005) In the Vineyard of the Lord : The Life, Faith, and Teachings of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XV New York: Rizzoli International. ISBN 0847828018
  • Bunson, Matthew. (2005) We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI Huntington IN: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 1592761801
  • Tobin, Greg. (2005) Holy Father : Pope Benedict XVI: Pontiff for a New Era Sterling. ISBN 1402731728

External links and references

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The first days of his papacy


Episcopal Lineage
Consecrated by: Josef Stangl
Date of consecration: May 28, 1977
Consecrator of
Bishop Date of consecration
Alberto Cardinal Bovone May 12.1984
Zygmunt Zimowski May 25. 2002
Josef Clemens January 6, 2004
Bruno Forte September 8, 2004

Preceded by:
Julius Cardinal Döpfner
Archbishop of Munich and Freising
Succeeded by:
Friedrich Cardinal Wetter
Preceded by:
Franjo Cardinal Šeper
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Succeeded by:
William Joseph Levada
Preceded by:
Bernardin Cardinal Gantin
Dean of the College of Cardinals
Succeeded by:
Angelo Cardinal Sodano
Preceded by:
John Paul II
Succeeded by:

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