Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI during a general audience in 2010
Papacy began 19 April 2005
(&100000000000000060000006 years, &10000000000000216000000216 days)
Predecessor John Paul II
Ordination 29 June 1951
by Michael von Faulhaber
Consecration 28 May 1977
by Josef Stangl
Created Cardinal 27 June 1977
Personal details
Birth name Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger
Born 16 April 1927 (1927-04-16) (age 84)
Marktl, Bavaria, Germany
Nationality German (along with Vatican citizenship)
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents Joseph Ratzinger, Sr., Maria Ratzinger
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Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus PP. XVI; Italian: Benedetto XVI; German: Benedikt XVI.; born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger on 16 April 1927) is the 265th and current Pope,[1] by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See. He was elected on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005, and took possession of his cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on 7 May 2005. A native of Bavaria, Pope Benedict XVI has both German and Vatican citizenship.

After a long career as an academic, serving as a professor of theology at various German universities—most recently at the University of Regensburg—he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977. In 1981, he settled in Rome when he became Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most important offices of the Roman Curia. From 2002 until his election as Pope, he was also Dean of the College of Cardinals, and as such the primus inter pares among the cardinals. Prior to becoming Pope, he was "a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century" as "one of the most respected, influential and controversial members of the College of Cardinals"; he had an influence "second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions" as one of Pope John Paul II's closest confidants.[2]

Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI is theologically conservative and his teaching and prolific[3] writings defend traditional Catholic doctrine and values. During his papacy, Benedict XVI has advocated a return to fundamental Christian values to counter the increased secularisation of many developed 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 teaches the importance of both the Catholic Church and an understanding of God's redemptive love. He has reaffirmed the "importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work."[4] Pope Benedict has also revived a number of traditions including elevating the Tridentine Mass to a more prominent position.[5]



Pope Benedict XVI at a private audience on 20 January 2006

Benedict XVI was elected Pope at the age of 78. He is the oldest person to have been elected Pope since Pope Clement XII (1730–40). He had served longer as a cardinal than any Pope since Benedict XIII (1724–30). He is the ninth German Pope, the eighth having been the Dutch-German Pope Adrian VI (1522–23) from Utrecht. The last Pope named Benedict was Benedict XV, an Italian who reigned from 1914 to 1922, during World War I (1914–18).

Born in 1927 in Marktl, Bavaria, Germany, Ratzinger had a distinguished career as a university theologian before being appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising by Pope Paul VI (1963–78). Shortly afterwards, he was made a cardinal in the consistory of 27 June 1977. He was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and was also assigned the honorific title of the cardinal bishop of Velletri-Segni on 5 April 1993. In 1998, he was elected sub-dean of the College of Cardinals. And on 30 November 2002, he was elected dean, taking, as is customary, the title of Cardinal bishop of the suburbicarian diocese of Ostia. He was the first Dean of the College elected Pope since Paul IV (1555–59) and the first cardinal bishop elected Pope since Pius VIII (1829–30).

Even before becoming Pope, Ratzinger was one of the most influential men in the Roman Curia, and was a close associate of John Paul II. As Dean of the College of Cardinals, he presided over the funeral of John Paul II and over the Mass immediately preceding the 2005 conclave in which he was elected. During the service, he called on the assembled cardinals to hold fast to the doctrine of the faith. He was the public face of the church in the sede vacante period, although, technically, he ranked below the Camerlengo in administrative authority during that time. Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI affirms traditional Catholic doctrine.

In addition to his native German, Benedict speaks French and Italian fluently. He also has a very good command of Latin and speaks English and Spanish adequately. Furthermore, he has some knowledge of Portuguese. He can read Ancient Greek and biblical Hebrew.[6] He has stated that his first foreign language is French. He is a member of several scientific academies, such as the French Académie des sciences morales et politiques. He plays the piano and has a preference for Mozart and Bach.[7]

Early life: 1927–51

Marktl am Inn, the house where Ratzinger was born. The building still stands today.

Joseph Alois 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 was the third and youngest child of Joseph Ratzinger, Sr., a police officer, and Maria Ratzinger (née Peintner). His mother's family was originally from South Tyrol (now in Italy). Pope Benedict XVI's brother, Georg Ratzinger, a priest and former director of the Regensburger Domspatzen choir, is still alive. His sister, Maria Ratzinger, who never married, managed Cardinal Ratzinger's household until her death in 1991. Their grand-uncle was the German politician Georg Ratzinger.

At the age of five, Ratzinger was in a group of children who welcomed the visiting Cardinal Archbishop of Munich with flowers. Struck by the Cardinal's distinctive garb, he later announced the very same day that he wanted to be a cardinal.

Ratzinger attended the elementary school in Aschau am Inn, which was renamed in his honour in 2009.[8]

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 December 1939[9]—but was an unenthusiastic member who refused to attend meetings, according to his brother.[10] In 1941, one of Ratzinger's cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was taken away by the Nazi regime and killed during the Aktion T4 campaign of Nazi eugenics.[11] In 1943, while still in seminary, he was drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps as Luftwaffenhelfer.[10] Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry.[12] 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 their headquarters in the Ratzinger household.[13] As a German soldier, he was put in a POW camp but was released a few months later at the end of the war in the summer of 1945.[13] He reentered the seminary, along with his brother Georg, in November of that year.

Thus, following repatriation in 1945, the two brothers entered Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein, 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.[14]

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.

Pre-papal career

Academic career: 1951–77

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, Ratzinger participated in the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). Ratzinger 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, Joseph 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.[15] Despite his reformist bent, his views increasingly came to contrast with the liberal ideas gaining currency in theological circles.[16]

Some voices, among them Hans 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]".[17] Ratzinger has 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 for 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 Roman Catholic way to engage in ecumenical dialogue.

During his years at Tübingen University, Ratzinger publicised articles in the reformist theological journal Concilium, though he increasingly chose less reformist themes than other contributors to the magazine such as Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx.

In 1969, he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg. He 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.[18][19]

Archbishop of Munich and Freising: 1977–82

Palais Holnstein in Munich, the residence of Benedict as Archbishop of Munich and Freising

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.[20]

Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: 1981–2005

On 25 November 1981, Pope John Paul II named Ratzinger Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the "Sacred Congregaton of the Holy Office," the historical 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, was made the College's vice-dean in 1998 and dean in 2002.

Ratzinger defended and reaffirmed Catholic doctrine, including teaching on topics such as birth control, homosexuality, and inter-religious dialogue. Theologian Leonardo Boff, for example, was suspended, while others 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." [21]

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 target of controversy during the sex abuse scandal.[22] 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.[23] 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 prosecution.[24]

On 12 March 1983, Ratzinger as prefect notified the lay faithful and the clergy that archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc had incurred the 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 Doctrine of Faith and to become an archivist in the Vatican Secret Archives and a librarian in the Vatican Library, but the pope refused such permission.[25][26]


Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square, Rome

Election to the papacy


On 2 January 2005, Time quoted unnamed Vatican sources as saying that Ratzinger was a front runner 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. 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.

Though Ratzinger was increasingly considered the front runner by much of the international media, others maintained that his election was far from certain, since very few papal predictions in modern history had come true. The elections of both John Paul II and his predecessor, John Paul I had been rather unexpected. Despite being the favorite (or perhaps because he was the favorite), it was a surprise to many that he was actually elected, as traditionally the frontrunners are passed over by the conclave for someone else.


On 19 April 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II on the second day of the papal conclave after four ballots. 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."[27] Coincidentally, 19 April is the feast of St. Leo IX, the most important German pope of the Middle Ages, known for instituting major reforms during his pontificate.

Before his first appearance at the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica after becoming pope, he was announced by Jorge Medina Estévez, Cardinal Protodeacon of the Holy Roman 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.[28]

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. Then, 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. 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![29]

Tone of papacy

Pope Benedict XVI's first trip in the Popemobile

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 has continued the tradition of his predecessor John Paul II and baptises several infants in the Sistine Chapel at the beginning of each year, in his pastoral role as Bishop of Rome.


On 9 May 2005, Benedict XVI began the beatification process for his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Normally, five years must pass after a person's death before the beatification process can begin. However, in an audience with Pope Benedict, Camillo Ruini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome and the official responsible for promoting the cause for canonization of any person who dies within that diocese, cited "exceptional circumstances" which suggested that the waiting period could be waived. This happened before, when Pope Paul VI waived the five year rule and announced beatification processes for his predecessors, Pope Pius XII and Pope John XXIII. Benedict XVI followed this precedent when he waived the five year rule for John Paul II.[30] The decision was announced on 13 May 2005, the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima and the 24th anniversary of the attempt on John Paul II's life.[31] John Paul II often credited Our Lady of Fátima for preserving him on that day. Cardinal Ruini inaugurated the diocesan phase of the cause for beatification in the Lateran Basilica on 28 June 2005.[32]

The first beatification under the new Pope was celebrated on 14 May 2005, by José Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The new Blesseds were Mother Marianne Cope and Mother Ascensión Nicol Goñi. Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen was beatified on 9 October 2005. Mariano de la Mata was beatified in November 2006 and Rosa Eluvathingal was beatified 3 December of that year, and Fr. Basil Moreau was beatified September 2007.[33] In October 2008 the following beatifications took place: Celestine of the Mother of God, Giuseppina Nicoli, Hendrina Stenmanns, Maria Rosa Flesch, Marta Anna Wiecka, Michael Sopocko, Petrus Kibe Kasui and 187 Companions, Susana Paz-Castillo Ramirez, Maria Isbael Salvat Romero, and John Henry Newman.

Unlike his predecessor, Benedict XVI delegated the beatification liturgical service to a Cardinal. On 29 September 2005, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued a communiqué announcing that henceforth beatifications would be celebrated by a representative of the Pope, usually the Prefect of that Congregation.[34]


Pope Benedict at the canonization of Frei Galvão

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his first canonizations on 23 October 2005 in St. Peter's Square when he canonized Josef Bilczewski, Alberto Hurtado SJ, Zygmunt Gorazdowski, Gaetano Catanoso, and Felice da Nicosia. The canonizations were part of a Mass that marked the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops and the Year of the Eucharist.[35] Pope Benedict XVI canonized Bishop Rafael Guizar y Valencia, Mother Theodore Guerin, Filippo Smaldone, and Rosa Venerini on 15 October 2006.

During his visit to Brazil in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI presided over the canonization of Frei Galvão on 11 May, while George Preca, founder of the Malta based M.U.S.E.U.M., Szymon of Lipnica, Charles of Mount Argus, and Marie-Eugénie de Jésus were canonized in a ceremony held at the Vatican on 3 June 2007.[36] Preca is the first Maltese saint since the country's conversion to Christianity in 60 A.D. when St. Paul converted the inhabitants.[37] In October 2008 the following canonizations took place: Saint Alphonsa of India,[38] Gaetano Errico, Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran, Maria Bernarda Bütler. In April 2009 he canonized Arcangelo Tadini, Bernardo Tolomei, Nuno Álvares Pereira, Geltrude Comensoli, Caterina Volpicelli.[39] In October of the same year he canonized Jeanne Jugan, Jozef Damian de Veuster, Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Francisco Coll Guitart and Rafael Arnáiz Barón.[40][41]

On 17 October 2010, Pope Benedict XVI formally declared sainthood for Saint André Bessette, a French-Canadian; Stanislaw Soltys, a 15th-century Polish priest; Italian nuns Giulia Salzano and Camilla Battista da Varano; Spanish nun Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola and an Australian nun, Mother Mary MacKillop.[42]

Curia reform

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Pope Benedict began downsizing the Roman Curia when he merged four existing pontifical councils into two in March 2006. The Pontifical Council for Migrants was merged with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace headed by Cardinal Martino. Likewise, Cardinal Poupard, who headed the Pontifical Council for Culture, now also oversees the operations of what had been the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, though both Councils maintained separate officials and staffs while their status and competencies continued unchanged. In May 2007 it was decided that Interreligious Dialogue would again become a separate body under a different President. In June 2010 Benedict created the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation. He appointed Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella as its first president.


As Pope, one of Benedict XVI's main roles is to teach about the Catholic faith and the solutions to the problems of discerning and living the faith,[43] a role that he can 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.[44]
Benedict XVI: "The Eucharist is the enduring presence of Jesus' self-oblation." (Deus Caritas Est)

"Friendship with Jesus Christ" is a frequent theme of his preaching.[45][46] He stressed that on this intimate friendship, "everything depends."[47] He has 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."[48] 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.[47]

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."[49] 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 has often referred to as the "central problem of our faith today",[50] 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.[51]

He said that "a dictatorship of relativism"[52] 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.[53] 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."[54]

In an address to a conference of the Diocese of Rome held at the basilica of St. John Lateran 6 June 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.[55]

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.[56]

Benedict also emphasised that "Only creative reason, which in the crucified God is manifested as love, can really show us the way."


Pope Benedict has to date written 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.[57]

The encyclical contains almost 16,000 words in 42 paragraphs. The first half is said to have been written by Benedict in German, his mother tongue, in the summer of 2005; the second half is derived from uncompleted writings left by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.[58] The document was signed by Pope Benedict on Christmas Day, 25 December 2005.[59] 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.[60]

Pope Benedict's second encyclical titled Spe Salvi ("Saved by Hope"), about the virtue of hope, was released on 30 November 2007.[61][62]

Benedict's 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.[63] 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.[63]

Post-synodal apostolic exhortation

Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity) signed 22 February 2007, 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 recent Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops..." which was held in 2006.[64]

Motu proprio on Tridentine Mass

A pre-1969 Latin Rite altar with reredos.
The high altar of a church was usually preceded by three steps, below which were said the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. Side altars usually had only one step.

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.[65] 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.[66] For regularly scheduled public celebrations of the Tridentine Mass, the permission of the priest in charge of the church is required.[67]

In an accompanying letter, the Pope outlined his position concerning questions about the new guidelines.[66] As there were fears that the move would entail a reversal of the Second Vatican Council,[68] 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."[66] 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.[66]

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 past 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."[66] Many feel the decree aimed at ending the schism between the Holy See and traditionalist groups such as the Society of St. 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,[69] 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".[65]

Unicity and Salvific Universality of the 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."[70] 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."[70]


Benedict XVI has 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."[71]

In June 2009, he blamed outsourcing for greater availability of consumer goods which lead to downsizing of social security systems.[72]

Ecumenical efforts

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," said Pope Benedict. "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."

Dialogue with other religions

Pope Benedict is open to dialogue with other religious groups, and has sought to improve relations with them throughout his pontificate.[73][74] He has, however, generated certain controversies in doing so.


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".[75] 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."[76] 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."[76]

Critics have accused Benedict's papacy as being insensitive towards Judaism. The two most prominent instances were the expanding 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.[77][78][79][80][81] Among those whose excommunications was lifted was Bishop Richard Williamson, an outspoken Holocaust denier.[82][83][84][85] The lifting of his excommunication led critics to charge that the Pope was condoning his anti-Semitic views.[86]


Pope Benedict's relations with Islam have been strained at times. On 12 September 2006 Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture which touched on Islam at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The pope had previously served as professor of theology at the university, 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 said was an insulting mischaracterisation of Islam, although his focus was aimed towards the rationality of religious violence, and its effect on the religion.[87][88] Muslims were particularly offended by the following quotation from the Pope's 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.[88]

The passage originally appeared in the "Dialogue Held With A Certain Persian, the Worthy Mouterizes, in Anakara of Galatia[89][90] 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).[91] 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.

Pope Benedict XVI planned on 5 March 2008, to meet with Muslim scholars and religious leaders autumn 2008 at a Catholic-Muslim seminar in Rome.[92] That meeting, the "First Meeting of the Catholic-Muslim Forum," was held from November 4–6, 2008.[93]

On 9 May 2009 H.H. Pope Benedict XVI visited the King Hussein Mosque, Amman, Jordan where he was addressed by H.R.H. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal.[73]

Tibetan Buddhism

The Dalai Lama congratulated Pope Benedict XVI upon his election,[94] 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.[95]

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."[96] 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."[96] President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez 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."[96] 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."[97]

International Society for Krishna Consciousness

While visiting the United States on 17 April 2008, Benedict met with International Society for Krishna Consciousness representative Radhika Ramana Dasa;[98] a notable Hindu scholar[99] and disciple of Hanumatpreshaka Swami.[100] On behalf of the Hindu American community, Radhika Ramana Dasa presented a gift of an Om symbol to Benedict.[101][102]

Apostolic ministry

Pope Benedict XVI in a Mercedes-Benz popemobile in São Paulo, Brazil

As Pontiff, Benedict XVI carries 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 has made two visits to his homeland, Germany, one for World Youth Day and another to visit the towns of his childhood. He has also visited Poland and Spain, where he was enthusiastically received.[103] 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[104] and was placed under unprecedented security measures.[105] 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,[106] 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.[107] During his stay in Austria, he also celebrated Mass at the Marian shrine Mariazell and visited Heiligenkreuz Abbey.[108]

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his 81st birthday with U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.

In April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI made his first visit to the United States since becoming pope.[109] He arrived in Washington, DC where he was formally received at the White House and met privately with U.S. President George W. Bush.[110] 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.[111] 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.[112] 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.[113] On the final day of the pope's visit, he visited the World Trade Center site and later celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium.[114]

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.[115][116] 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.[117][118]

In 2009, he visited Africa (Cameroon and Angola) for the first time as a 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 is 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 the Pope travels via motor without the protective bulletproof case common to most popemobiles. Despite the more secure setting Pope Benedict has been victim to security risks several times inside Vatican City. On Wednesday, 6 June 2007 during his General Audience a man lept 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 revealed that the woman had previously attempted to accost the Pope at the previous Christmas Eve Mass, but was prevented from doing so.[119][120]

In his homily, Pope Benedict forgave Susanna Maiolo[121] and urged the world to "wake up" from selfishness and petty affairs, and find time for God and spiritual matters.[119]

Pope Benedict XVI in Balzan, a small village in Malta

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.[122] 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.[123]

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.[124][125] 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".[126] In his role as Head of the CFD, 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."[127] 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)".[126][128]

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.[125][129] 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[130] When Maciel was honored by the Pope in 2004, new accusers came forward[130] and Cardinal Ratzinger "took it on himself to authorize an investigation of Maciel"[125] After Ratzinger became pope he began proceedings against Maciel and the Legion of Christ that forced Maciel out of active service in the church.[124] 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.[131] 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".[124][132] 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.[129]

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.[133] 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.[134][135][136][137] 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.[123] 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."[138] 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.[139]


Pope Benedict XVI in choir dress with the red summer papal mozzetta, embroidered red stole, and the red papal shoes.

Pope Benedict XVI has re-introduced several papal garments which had previously fallen into disuse. Pope Benedict XVI resumed the use of the traditional red papal shoes, which had not been used since early in 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.[140]

On 21 December 2005, the pope began wearing 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.


Because of age-related health problems, in order to have free time to write, and because he reached the age limit for bishops (75) he had hoped to retire, and submitted his resignation three times, but had 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.[141] This was never affirmed – the official news was that Cardinal Ratzinger fell and struck his head against a radiator – but an open secret known to the Conclave that elected him Pope.[142]

Since he became Pope in April 2005 there were several rumors about his health but none of them was ever confirmed. Early in his pontificate Pope Benedict XVI predicted a short reign which led to concerns about his health.[143] In May 2005, the Vatican revealed that he had subsequently suffered another mild stroke. French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin further revealed that since the first stroke, Ratzinger had been suffering from a heart condition as a result of his age, and is currently on medication. In late November 2006, Vatican insiders told the international press that the Pope had a routine examination of the heart.[142] 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.[144]

On Friday 17 July 2009 Benedict was hospitalised after falling and breaking his right wrist while on vacation in the Alps. His injuries were reported to be minor.[145]

Titles and style

Papal styles of
Pope Benedict XVI
BXVI CoA like gfx PioM.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father

The official style of the Pope is His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI; in Latin, Benedictus XVI, Episcopus Romae. However, his rarely used full title is: His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.

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 adopted in the year 642 by Pope Theodore I, but was rarely used since the East-West Schism of 1054. From the Orthodox perspective, authority in the Church could be traced to the five patriarchates of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. However, some Catholic theologians have argued that the term "Patriarch of the West" has no clear historical or theological basis and was introduced into the papal court in 1870 at the time of the First Vatican Council. Pope Benedict chose to remove the title at a time when discussions with the Orthodox churches have centred 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.[147] 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.[148] However, the Vatican has since stated that no such change in the Church's teaching can occur.[149] TIME also reported in its 30 April 2006 edition 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."[149]

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.[150]

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 or her immoral activity.[151] 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 prostitution or contraception, both of which remain gravely immoral.[151]


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 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."[152] However the document also condemned homophobic attacks and violence stating "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."[152]

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 opined, was not equivalent to race or ethnicity, and it declared that it was "not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account."[153]

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, set down by creation, be respected". He characterised gender roles which deviated from his view of what gender roles should be as "a violation of the natural order". The church, he said, "should protect man from the destruction of himself". He said a sort of ecology of man was needed, adding: "The tropical forests do deserve our protection; but man, as a creature, does not deserve any less." He attacked what he described as gender theories which "lead towards the self-emancipation of man from creation and the creator"."[154][155]

LGBT groups such as the Italian Arcigay and German LSVD have announced that they found the Pope's comments homophobic.[156] 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."[154]

Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, claimed the Pope had not wished specifically to attack homosexuality, 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.[154]

International relations

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."[157]

Benedict with then President of Russia Vladimir Putin on 13 March 2007

Pope Benedict has 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.[158]


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.[159]


On 13 November 2006, Benedict said 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.[160]


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 has 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.[161]

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.[162][163] 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:[164] "In every step towards unification, minorities must be protected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion."[165] The Declaration also reiterates Pope Benedict XVI's call for Europe to preserve its Christian roots.


In May 2009 he visited Israel.[166][167] 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".[168] 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."[169]

Global economy

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.[170] The document sets out the 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 has reported that the Pope's advocacy for a fairer redistribution of wealth has helped set the agenda for the 2009 July G8 summit.[171][172]

Nuclear energy

Pope Benedict XVI has called for nuclear disarmament. At the same time, he has 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."[173]


Pope Benedict is known to be deeply interested in classical music,[7] and is an accomplished pianist.[174] He has a grand piano in his papal quarters. The Pontiff's favorite composer is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, of whose music the Pope said: "His music is by no means just entertainment; it contains the whole tragedy of human existence."[175] Benedict also stated that Mozart's music affected him greatly as a young man and "deeply penetrated his soul."[175] Benedict's favorite works of music are Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet.[176]

Pope Benedict has recorded an album of contemporary classical music in which Benedict sings and recites prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary.[177] The album was set for release on 30 November 2009.

Pope Benedict is also known to be fond of cats.[7] As Cardinal Ratzinger he was known to look after stray cats in Rome. A book called "Joseph and Chico: A Cat Recounts the Life of Pope Benedict XVI" was published in 2007 which told the story of the Pope's life from the feline Chico's perspective. This story was inspired by an orange tabby Pentling cat, which belonged to the family next door.[178] During his trip to Australia for World Youth Day in 2008 the media reported that festival organizers lent the Pope a grey cat called Bella[179] in order to keep him company during his stay.[180]

Honours and awards

1977 Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit of the Republic of Ecuador
1977 Bavarian Order of Merit
1985 Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany with Star and Sash
1985 Constitutional Medal of the Bavarian state parliament in Gold
1989 Ordine della Minerva at the University of Chieti
1989 Augustin Bea Prize (Rome)
1989 Karl-Valentin-Orden (Munich)
1991 Leopold Kunschak Prize (Vienna)
1991 Georg von Hertling Medal of CT
1992 Grand Gold Medal with Ribbon for Services to the Republic of Austria
1992 Literature Prize Capri S. Michele in Anacapri
1992 Premio Internazionale di Cultura Cattolica, Bassano del Grappa
1993 literary prize Premio Letterario Basilicata per la Letteratura e Poesia religiosa Spirituale in Potenza (Italy)
1996 Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and the Arts
1998 Commander of the Legion of Honour (Legion d'Honneur) (France)
2002 Liberal Trieste
2004 Literature Prize Capri S. Michele in Anacapri

See also


  1. ^ The precise number of popes has been a matter for scholarly debate for centuries. John A. Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary (1980) lists Pope John Paul II (1978–2005) as 264th Pope, making him the 265th.
  2. ^ Walsh, Mary Ann (2005). From Pope John Paul II to Benedict XVI: an inside look at the end of an era, the beginning of a new one, and the future of the church. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 135. ISBN 158051202X. 
  3. ^ Owen, Richard (6 June 2008). "Vatican to publish entire work by bestselling author Pope Benedict XVI". The Times (London). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4079549.ece. Retrieved 6 May 2009.  WebCitation archive
  4. ^ Johnston, Jerry Earl (18 February 2006). "Benedict's encyclical offers hope for world". Deseret News. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,635185276,00.html. Retrieved 12 September 2010.  WebCitation archive
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Further reading

Books by Pope Benedict

  • Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church's Marian Belief (1983)
  • Schauen auf den Durchbohrten: Versuche zu einer spirituellen Christologie — The Theological Basis for a Spiritual Christology (1984) (English title Behold the Pierced One, Ignatius, 1986)
  • Ratzinger, Joseph (1985). The Ratzinger Report. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN 0898700809. 
  • Dogma and Preaching (Franciscan Herald, 1985)
  • The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy (Ignatius, 1986)
  • Principles of Christian Morality (Ignatius, 1986)
  • Journey Towards Easter: Retreat Given in the Vatican in the Presence of Pope John Paul II (1987)
  • Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (Ignatius, 1987)
  • Ratzinger, Joseph (1988). Johann Auer and Joseph Ratzinger. ed. Eschatology, Death and Eternal Life. Dogmatic Theology. 9. Washington: Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 0813206332. 
  • Mary: God's Yes to Man : Pope John Paul II Encyclical Letter : Mother of the Redeemer (Ignatius, 1988)
  • "In the Beginning...": A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall (Our Sunday Visitor, 1990)
  • To Look on Christ: Exercises in Faith, Hope, and Love (Crossroad, 1991)
  • Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year (Ignatius, 1992)
  • The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood (Ignatius, 1993)
  • A Turning Point for Europe?: The Church in the Modern World - Assessment and Forecast (Ignatius, 1994)
  • The Nature and Mission of Theology: Essays to Orient Theology in Today's Debates (Ignatius, 1995)
  • Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today (Ignatius, 1996)
  • Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism: Sidelights on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Ignatius, 1997)
  • Ratzinger, Joseph (1997). Salt of the Earth: an interview with Peter Seewald. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN 0898706408. 
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church: Corrigenda (1998)
  • Ad Tuendam Fidem — to Protect the Faith (1998)
  • Milestones: Memoirs 1927–1977 (Ignatius, 1998)
  • Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World (1999)
  • The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000)
  • Introduction to Christianity, revised ed. (Ignatius, 2004)
  • God and the World: A Conversation With Peter Seewald (Ignatius, 2002)
  • God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life (Ignatius, 2003)
  • Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief And World Religions (Ignatius, 2004)
  • Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday 2005, Introduction, and Meditations and prayers on the 14 Stations of the Cross.
  • The End of Time?: The Provocation of Talking about God (2005)
  • Pilgrim Fellowship Of Faith: The Church As Communion (Ignatius, 2005)
  • On the Way to Jesus Christ (Ignatius, 2005)
  • God's Revolution (Ignatius, 2006)
  • Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures (Ignatius, 2006)
  • Values in a Time of Upheaval (Ignatius, 2006)
  • The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion, co-authored with Jürgen Habermas, (Ignatius, 2007)
  • Pope Benedict XVI (2006). God Is Love(Deus Caritas Est), First Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI. City: USCCB Publisher. ISBN 1574557580. 
  • Pope Benedict XVI (2007). Jesus of Nazareth: from the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration. Garden City: Doubleday. ISBN 0385523416. 
  • Pope Benedict XVI (2007). The Apostles. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 9781592764051. 
  • Pope Benedict XVI (2005). Robert Moynihan. ed. Let God's Light Shine Forth:The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI. Garden City: Doubleday. ISBN 0385507925. 
  • Pope Benedict XVI; Peter Seewald (2010). Light Of The World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times. Ignatius Press. ISBN 9781586176068. 
  • Pope Benedict XVI (2011). Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. Garden City: Ignatius Press. ISBN 9781586175009. 

Literature about him

  • Allen, John L.: Cardinal Ratzinger: the Vatican's enforcer of the faith. – New York: Continuum, 2000
  • Herrmann, Horst: Benedikt XVI. Der neue Papst aus Deutschland. – Berlin 2005
  • Nichols OP, Aidan: The Theology of Joseph Ratzinger: An Introductory Study. – Edinburgh; T&T Clark, 1988
  • Pater Prior Maximilian Heim: Joseph Ratzinger — Kirchliche Existenz und existenzielle Theologie unter dem Anspruch von Lumen gentium (diss.).
  • Twomey, D. Vincent, S.V.D.: Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (A Theological Portrait). – San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007
  • Wagner, Karl: Kardinal Ratzinger: der Erzbischof in München und Freising in Wort und Bild. – München : Pfeiffer, 1977


  • Allen, John L. The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church. NY: Doubleday, 2005. ISBN 0-385-51320-8.
  • Allen, John L. Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005. ISBN 0-8264-1786-8. This is a reprint of Allen's 2000 book Cardinal Ratzinger: the Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith.
  • Bardazzi, Marco. In the Vineyard of the Lord : The Life, Faith, and Teachings of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. New York: Rizzoli International, 2005. ISBN 0-8478-2801-8
  • Bunson, Matthew. We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 1-59276-180-1.
  • Pursell, Brennan, Benedict of Bavaria: An Intimate Portrait of the Pope and His Homeland (Circle Press, 2008). ISBN 1-933271-17-5.
  • Tobin, Greg. Holy Father : Pope Benedict XVI: Pontiff for a New Era. Sterling, 2005. ISBN 1-4027-3172-8.
  • Weigel, George. God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, Harper Collins, 2005. ISBN 0-06-621331-2.


  • The Keys of the Kingdom, from John Paul II to Benedict XVI, produced by Vatican Television Center, distributed by HDH Communications, 2006.

External links

Encyclicals by Benedict XVI
Episcopal lineage
Consecrated by: Josef Stangl
Consecrator of
Bishop Date of consecration
Alberto Bovone 12 May 1984
Zygmunt Zimowski 25 May 2002
Josef Clemens 6 January 2004
Bruno Forte 8 September 2004
Mieczysław Mokrzycki 29 September 2007
Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro 29 September 2007
Gianfranco Ravasi 29 September 2007
Tommaso Caputo 29 September 2007
Sergio Pagano 29 September 2007
Vincenzo Di Mauro 29 September 2007
Gabriele Giordano Caccia 12 September 2009
Franco Coppola 12 September 2009
Pietro Parolin 12 September 2009
Raffaello Martinelli 12 September 2009
Giorgio Corbellini 12 September 2009
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Julius Döpfner
Archbishop of Munich and Freising
1977 – 1982
Succeeded by
Friedrich Wetter
Preceded by
Franjo Šeper
Prefect of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith

1981 – 2005
Succeeded by
William Levada
Preceded by
Bernardin Gantin
Dean of the College of Cardinals
2002 – 2005
Succeeded by
Angelo Sodano
Preceded by
John Paul II
2005 – present

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