VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has had a long and illustrious career as one of the Roman Catholic Church’s most distinguished theologians. Despite all his accomplishments and accolades, Benedict XVI will forever be remembered as the first pope in 600 years to step down.
Former German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog before becoming pope. Then, after being elected pontiff in 2005, he continued the conservative path blazed by St. John Paul II, using intellectually rigorous sermons that decried how the world seemed to think it could do without God.
Benoît died on Saturday at the age of 95.
Here are some highlights of his life before, during and after his eight years of pontificate.
For nearly a quarter century as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger became known for disciplining wandering theologians, especially those who espoused popular liberation theology in Latin America. in the 1970s and 1980s.
As John Paul’s right-hand man on doctrinal matters, Ratzinger wrote documents reinforcing the Church’s teaching against homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia, and asserting 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 that all cases of clergy sexual abuse be sent to his office for processing. The 2001 change was a response to growing evidence that bishops were displacing abusers of priests rather than punishing them.
THE 265th POPE
Ratzinger was the favorite of the 2005 conclave after Jean-Paul’s death, and he was elected on the fourth ballot after runner-up Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio – the future Pope Francis – dropped out of the race.
Benedict had big shoes to fill, and he set about trying to remind Europe of its Christian roots while seeking to improve ties with China and the Orthodox Church.
But his eight-year pontificate has been marred by a series of miscommunications, missteps and scandals that culminated in a Vatican criminal trial of his former butler, accused of leaking his personal correspondence to a journalist. .
RELATIONS WITH JEWS AND MUSLIMS
Benedict made Jewish outreach a feature of his papacy, and in one of his most significant acts he made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Christ.
But he also angered Jewish groups when he pardoned a Holocaust-denying bishop — a scandal he admitted could have been avoided if someone in the Vatican had done a simple internet search. named after the bishop.
Benedict XVI’s relations with Muslims were more strained. He shook the Islamic world with a 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany, in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor who called some of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings “evil and inhumane,” especially his command to spread the faith. “by the sword”. ”
A later comment after the massacre of Christians in Egypt led the Al Azhar center in Cairo, the seat of Sunni Muslim scholarship, to suspend ties with the Vatican, which were only restored under Francis.
Benedict chose Feb. 11, 2013 — a Vatican holiday, with a routine audience with his cardinals — to make the historic announcement in Latin that he would become the first pope since Gregory XII in 1415 to step down.
While the decision took the world by surprise, Benoît had been treating her for months. He had suffered a nighttime fall during a trip to Mexico in 2012, which confirmed to him that he could no longer cope with the grueling and global demands of the 21st century papacy.
Benedict told the cardinals that due to his age he no longer had the “strength of mind and body” required 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 converted monastery in the Vatican gardens.
But he remained a reference for traditionalists nostalgic for his Orthodox papacy. And his few public statements 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 participation in a 2020 book on the preservation of celibacy for Catholic priests. It was published just as Francis was considering whether to relax celibacy in the Amazon to deal with a shortage of priests.
The ensuing scandal led Francis to essentially fire Benedict’s longtime secretary.