Benedict’s lasting mark on the papacy will be his resignation

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had a long and illustrious career as one of the Roman Catholic Church’s preeminent theologians. For all his achievements and accolades, however, Benedict will forever be known as the first pope in 600 years to resign.

Former German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the Vatican’s doctrinal guardian before becoming Pope. Then, after he was elected pontiff in 2005, he continued the conservative path set by St. John Paul II, using intellectually rigorous sermons that decried how the world seemed to think it could do without God.

Benedict died on Saturday at the age of 95.

Here are some of the highlights of his life before, during and after his eight-year papacy.


During nearly a quarter century as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger became known for disciplining errant theologians, particularly those who espoused the Liberation Theology that was popular in Latin America in the 1970s and ‘ 80.

As John Paul’s right-hand man on doctrinal matters, Ratzinger wrote documents reinforcing church teaching that opposes homosexuality, abortion and euthanasia and argues that salvation can only be found in the Catholic Church.

But Ratzinger was also responsible for one of the most important internal reforms at the Vatican: requiring all clerical sexual abuse cases to be sent to his office for processing. The 2001 change was a response to growing evidence that bishops were moving abusive priests rather than sanctioning them.

The 265th POPE

Ratzinger was the favorite going into the 2005 conclave after the death of John Paul and was elected in the fourth round of voting after the runner-up, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio – the future Pope Francis – withdrew from the running.

Benedict had big shoes to fill and began trying to remind Europe of its Christian roots while seeking improved ties with China and the Orthodox Church.

But his eight-year papacy has been marred by a series of communication blunders, blunders and scandals that culminated in a Vatican criminal trial of his former butler, who was accused of leaking his personal correspondence to a journalist.


Benedict made an outreach to the Jews a hallmark of his papacy, and in one of his most significant acts, he made a sweeping absolution of the Jewish people for the death of Christ.

But he also angered Jewish groups when he reinstated a Holocaust-denying bishop — a scandal he admitted could have been avoided if someone at the Vatican had done a simple Internet search for the bishop’s name.

Benedict’s relations with the Muslims were more severe. He shocked the Islamic world with a 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany, in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor as calling some of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings “evil and inhumane,” particularly his command to spread the faith “by the sword.” . ”

A follow-up comment after the massacre of Christians in Egypt led the Al Azhar center in Cairo, the seat of Sunni Muslim learning, to suspend relations with the Vatican, which were only restored under Francis.


Benedict chose February 11, 2013 – a Vatican holiday, with a routine joint audience with his cardinals – to make the historic announcement in Latin that he would become the first pope since Gregory XII in 1415 to resign.

While the decision took people by surprise, Benedict had been nursing it for months. He had taken a nightfall during a trip to Mexico in 2012 that confirmed to him that he could no longer keep up with the grueling, global demands of the 21st century papacy.

Benedict told the cardinals that because of his age, he no longer had the required “strength of mind and body” to do the job and freely decided to renounce his papal ministry.

He left the Vatican on February 28, 2013, flying by helicopter to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, where he spent the first months of his retirement.


Benedict largely kept his word that he would live a life of prayer and meditation “hidden from the world” in the renovated monastery in the Vatican gardens.

However, it remained a point of reference for traditionalists nostalgic for his orthodox papacy. And his few public announcements as “pope emeritus” made headlines and fueled calls for guidelines for future retired popes to avoid confusion about who was really in charge.

The most damaging incident was his involvement in a 2020 book about maintaining celibacy for Catholic priests. It was published at the exact moment Francis was weighing whether to relax celibacy in the Amazon to deal with a shortage of priests.

The ensuing scandal resulted in Francis effectively firing Benedict’s longtime secretary.

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