Death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Germany’s Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, appears from the window of the main balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica after he was elected the 265th pope of the Roman Catholic Church, April 19, 2005, in Vatican City. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was elected pontiff in April 2005 at the age of 78.

Given his age, he was widely seen as an interim pope, a bridge to the next generation after John Paul II’s long tenure.

A strict conservative: As an assistant to John Paul II, Benedict was the strict executor of his conservative social doctrine. He continued to espouse conservative doctrine after taking office and frequently warned against a « dictatorship of relativism ».

In his tone, demeanor and actions, Benedict was uniquely different from his predecessor – where John Paul wowed crowds with his fluency in many languages, Benedict XVI’s influence was felt through his scholarly writings and its theological rigor.

As pope, Benedict has often championed a back-to-basics approach. Three of his encyclicals – letters from the pope to Catholics around the world – were based on the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.

Church sex abuse crisis: Benedict became pope at the height of the global sex abuse scandal involving Catholic priests.

In 2008 he acknowledged « the shame we all felt » over reports of abuse, and in 2010 issued new rules aimed at stopping abusive priests who he said were « disfiguring their ministry ».

Some believe he did more to tackle abuse than any of his papal predecessors, while others saw his response as woefully inadequate.

Benedict came under further criticism in 2021 during his tenure as Archbishop of Munich and Freising, following the release of a Church-commissioned report into abuses committed by Catholic clergy there. low. The report found that during his tenure, between 1977 and 1982, he was informed of four cases of sexual abuse involving minors – two of which occurred during his tenure – but failed to act.

Other controversies: The abuse crisis was part of a series of controversies that dominated Benedict XVI’s time as pontiff, which often drew more attention than his conciliatory actions.

In 2006, he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who called Islam « evil and inhumane » – causing riots in parts of the Muslim world and prompting Benedict to apologize – and he lifted the excommunication of a denier bishop in 2009.

Benedict XVI’s other controversies included his comments that the distribution of condoms « increases the problem » of AIDS, and his decision to revive a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews.

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