Benedict XVI

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Benedict XVI in liturgical dress (2010)
Signature of Benedict XVI.

Benedict XVI ( Latin Benedictus PP . XVI ; born April 16, 1927 in Marktl as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger ) is Pope Emeritus (Latin papa emeritus ). From April 19, 2005 until his resignation on February 28, 2013, he was head of the Roman Catholic Church and thus also head of state of Vatican City . He was, according to Celestine V.(1294) the second pope in history to voluntarily resign from office. Joseph Ratzinger is considered an important theologian of the 20th century, but is controversial , among other things, because of his handling of cases of sexual abuse in the church .

Before his election as Pope, Joseph Ratzinger was Dean of the College of Cardinals (from 2002) and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (from 1982). He was considered one of the most influential cardinals and the right-hand man of his predecessor John Paul II on theological and church-political issues. In the conclave on April 18 and 19, 2005 , he was elected the 265th pope.

Since September 2, 2020, Benedict has been older than the then oldest pope in history, Leo XIII. However, he was in office until his death at the age of 93, while Benedict resigned before he was 86 years old.

youth and study

Joseph Ratzinger's childhood home in Hufschlag

Joseph Ratzinger was born on Holy Saturday 1927 as the son of the gendarmerie master Joseph (* March 6, 1877; † August 25, 1959) and the cook Maria, née Peintner (* January 8, 1884; † December 16, 1963), and baptized on the same day in the parish church of St. Oswald in Marktl. He had two siblings, Maria Ratzinger (December 7, 1921 - November 2, 1991) and the church musician Georg Ratzinger (January 15, 1924 - July 1, 2020). His great-uncle was the priest , state and Reichstag deputy and writer Georg Ratzinger (1844–1899).

Due to his father's transfers, the family moved to Tittmoning an der Salzach in July 1929 and to Aschau am Inn in December 1932 , where Joseph spent his elementary school days. After their father retired , they lived in Hufschlag near Traunstein from April 1937 . According to Ratzinger, this was the real home of the family, since the father had to be flexible in his job throughout his service as a gendarme . Even as a child, Joseph Ratzinger became an altar boy . Despite the financial burden, the parents also sent Joseph Ratzinger, after his brother Georg, to the archiepiscopal seminary of St. Michael in Traunstein, which he entered on April 16, 1939. There he attended the state Chiemgau-Gymnasium, where he attracted attention with his special achievements in humanities subjects.

In accordance with the compulsory youth service decreed by law on March 25, 1939, Joseph Ratzinger was forcibly admitted to the Hitler Youth in 1941 at the age of 14 . At the age of 16 he was sent to Munich on 2 August 1943 along with the other seminarians from Traunstein as an air force helper, first to an anti-aircraft battery in Unterföhring , then to protect the Allach BMW factory in Ludwigsfeld , north of Munich . His battery was later moved to Gilching , where he only had to do duty in the telephone exchange and survived a direct attack on the battery in 1944. During this time Ratzinger attended the Maximiliansgymnasium in Munich. When asked by a superior about his career goal, he already stated that he was a priest . After two months of Reich Labor Service in Burgenland , Austria , where he was employed, among other things, in the construction of the so-called Southeast Wall for the construction of anti- tank barriers , Ratzinger was drafted into the Wehrmacht on December 13, 1944 . He did his basic training in the Traunstein infantry barracks. After Hitler's death, Ratzinger left the barracks on his own in early May 1945 and returned to Hufschlag. He was briefly taken prisoner by the Americans in camp PWTE 314 in Neu-Ulm , from which he was released on June 19, 1945. After that he went to high school in Traunstein again and passed the matriculation examination.

From 1946 to 1951 Ratzinger studied Catholic theology and philosophy , first at the Philosophical-Theological University of Freising and from September 1, 1947 at the newly opened University in Munich. He was then a seminarian at the Ducal Georgianum of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich . In Freising he joined the Catholic student association K.St.V. Lichtenstein-Hohenheim to Freising-Weihenstephan in KV .

According to his own information, the student , who was looking to turn away from the dominance of Neo-Kantianism , was particularly influenced by the works of Gertrud von le Fort , Ernst Wiechert , Fjodor Dostojewski , Elisabeth Langgässer , Theodor Steinbüchel , Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers . He described Steinbüchel 's The Upheaval of Thinking as key reading . At the conclusion of his studies he found himself drawn to the energetic Augustine , one of the older Church Fathers , rather than Thomas Aquinas ; among the scholastics he was interested in St. John Bonaventure . Ratzinger named Gottlieb Söhngen as the most influential professors in Munich , along with Richard Egenter , Friedrich Wilhelm Maier , Friedrich Stummer , Joseph Pascher and Franz Xaver Seppelt .

Community work and academic career

Ratzinger received the lower consecrations (ostiariate, lectorate , exorcistat and acolyte ) on May 8 and 9, 1948 in the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ in Fürstenried Castle by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber . Auxiliary bishop Johannes Neuhäusler ordained him subdeacon and deacon on October 28 and 29, 1950 in Freising Cathedral . It was there that Ratzinger and his brother Georg were ordained priests by Cardinal Faulhaber on June 29, 1951 . Together the two celebrated their First Mass on July 8, 1951 in the parish church of St. Oswald in Traunstein and their post- Primacy on July 30, 1951 in Rimsting , the mother's hometown. From August 1951, Joseph Ratzinger worked as a chaplain in the parish of St. Martin in the Moosach district of Munich (until September 1951 as a sick substitute for the parish priest Joseph Knogler), then for a year in the parish of Heilig Blut in the Bogenhausen district . In the school year 1951/1952 he taught Catholic religion in the Gebele School there. On October 1, 1952 he was appointed as a lecturer at the Freisinger seminary.

In July 1953, Ratzinger received his doctorate in theology . His dissertation , People and House of God in Augustine's Doctrine of the Church , received summa cum laude . In 1957 he habilitated at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich against the resistance of the highly respected dogmatist Michael Schmaus with Gottlieb Söhngen in the subject of fundamental theology with the writing The History of St. Bonaventure . Ratzinger had to revise the typeface at Schmaus' intervention. The parts of the habilitation thesis that Schmaus complained about and did not submit again in 1957 were only published in 2009. On February 21, 1957, he gave his habilitation lecture on the unity between fundamental theological and dogmatic approaches to the Church .

In 1958, the then 31-year-old took up a professorship in dogmatics and fundamental theology at the Philosophical-Theological University of Freising (the chairs of the university were transferred to the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich after it was closed). In 1959 he was appointed to the Chair of Fundamental Theology at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn . He gave his inaugural lecture on June 24, 1959 on the subject of The God of Faith and the God of Philosophers . After a short stay in the Collegium Albertinum theology college , he lived in Bad Godesberg during his time in Bonn ; his sister Maria ran the household for him. He held the Bonn chair until 1963, when he accepted a call to the seminar for dogmatics and the history of dogma in the Catholic theological faculty at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster for the next three years . He held his inaugural lecture on Revelation and Tradition on June 27, 1963 in a lecture hall in the Fürstenberghaus on Domplatz . The fact that this lecture hall was also overcrowded may be due to the fact that he did not recite any seemingly inviolable doctrines and scriptures or texts from the Fathers of the Church, but rather asked questions that seemed outrageous, such as: "What is that actually, 'God'?"

Joseph Ratzinger belonged to the ecumenical working group of Protestant and Catholic theologians. From 1964 he was a full member, from his appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981 only as a corresponding member. The membership ended with his election as Pope (2005).

In 1966, on the recommendation of Hans Küng , Ratzinger received a chair in Catholic Dogmatics at the Catholic Theological Faculty of the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen . He gave his inaugural lecture there on January 19, 1967. His book Introduction to Christianity , published in 1968, was based on lectures from this time for the audience of all faculties . Immediately affected by the student protests of the late 1960s, he accepted a professorship at the Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University of Regensburg in 1969. There he taught dogmatics and the history of dogmas and founded the Gustav Siewerth Academy together with Alma von Stockhausen . In 1976 he became Vice President of the University and Honorary Pontifical Prelate . From 1970 he lived in his own house in Pentling near Regensburg until he was appointed Archbishop of Munich in 1977. He kept the house; Even after his election as Pope in 2005, his registered address in Germany remained. Since his appointment as archbishop he has been an honorary professor in Regensburg.

Ratzinger, who dealt extensively with the eschatology and here with the writings of church writers such as Origen , whom he repeatedly quotes in his works, was increasingly perceived by the public as a theologian who, with great personal modesty, persistently pursued the goal of presenting the Christian message To preserve arbitrariness and endangerment of the faith. This and his outstanding theological talent are given as the reasons for his later appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith .

Benedict XVI speaks several languages ​​( German , Italian , French , Latin , English and Spanish ) and also reads ancient Greek and Hebrew .

Joseph Ratzinger did not found a theological school. After the end of his university career, even as Pope Benedict XVI, he met regularly with his students, who formed the Joseph Ratzinger student group.

Second Vatican Council

A speech written by Ratzinger, which the Archbishop of Cologne , Cardinal Frings , held in Genoa in 1961 in the preparatory phase for the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) was directed against Rome's neo-scholastic torpor and abuses in the Holy Office . John XXIII praised Frings - contrary to expectations and in private - very much for this speech. This encouraged Frings, who was a member of the ten-member Council Presidium, to bring in Ratzinger as his adviser and speechwriter during Vatican Council. A report given by Ratzinger on the evening before the start of the Council on the schema De fontibus revelationis submitted by the preparatory Council commission contributed to this schema being discarded and finally the Constitution Dei verbum being drawn up. Ratzinger participated in the commission for the drafting of the constitution. In 1963 he was appointed by Pope Paul VI. appointed council theologian (Peritus). In particular , he took a reform-friendly view on the composition of commissions or the Curia text on revelation.

Together with Walter Kasper , Karl Lehmann , Karl Rahner and others, he pleaded in February 1970 with the memorandum on the celibacy discussion for an urgent review and more differentiated consideration of the celibacy law of the Latin Church.

Archbishop of Munich and Freising

Ratzinger with the theologian Wolfgang Nastainczyk (1977)


On March 25, 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed Joseph Ratzinger Archbishop of Munich and Freising . He was ordained a bishop on May 28, 1977 by the Bishop of Würzburg , Josef Stangl , in the Munich Cathedral dedicated to Our Lady ; Co -consecrators were the bishop of Regensburg , Rudolf Graber , and the auxiliary bishop in Munich and Freising, Ernst Tewes . Ratzinger 's motto as bishop Cooperatores veritatis ("(The) co-workers of the truth") comes from the 3rd letter of John ( 3 JohEU ). Just one month later, on June 27, 1977, he was admitted to the College of Cardinals as a cardinal priest with the titular church of Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino . As a newly appointed cardinal , he received the Polish episcopate in Munich, including Karol Wojtyła, later Pope John Paul II , and took part in both conclaves in 1978.

Dealing with cases of sexual abuse

Because of its brevity, the time as Archbishop takes up little space in most biographical accounts of Joseph Ratzinger. She caught the public eye in March 2010 when it became known that a priest who was suspected of sexual abuse had been transferred from Essen to Munich in 1980. At the request of the diocese of Essen , the priest was accepted as a chaplain in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising in January 1980. He should do therapy in Munich. The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising stated in a statement dated March 12, 2010: “Based on the files, the working group of the Ordinariate must assume that it was known at the time that he was probably supposed to undergo this therapy because of sexual relationships with boys. In 1980 it was decided to give him accommodation in a vicarage so that he could attend therapy. The archbishop at the time helped to take this decision.” According to investigations by the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, it was determined that the vicar general at the time , as the person responsible for human resources in the archdiocese, deviated from this decision and had instructed the priest “unrestrictedly to help with pastoral care in a Munich parish”. The Archdiocese's statement continued: "[The priest's] repeated involvement in parish pastoral care was a grave error. [The then Vicar General Gruber] takes full responsibility for the wrong decisions”. The priest's psychiatrist had warned the archdiocese against using the minister in child and youth work, but he did not do so in writing until 1985.

Munich lawyer's report on alleged misconduct and joint responsibility of Ratzinger

An expert opinion published on January 20, 2022 by the Munich law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, which, among other things, dealt with the investigation of the incidents surrounding the priest, found that the statement made by the then Archbishop Ratzinger that he was not guilty of any misconduct due to a lack of expertise , cannot be reconciled with the meeting minutes found at that time. Ratzinger claims not to have taken part in a meeting in January 1980, in which the takeover of priest Peter Hullmann , who had become conspicuous as an abuser, from the diocese of Essen to the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, was the subject of an 82-page statement in December 2021 stated to the office. The experts from the Munich law firm are convinced that Ratzinger attended this meeting and that he was aware of what was happening, and they refer to the relevant minutes of this meeting, in which Ratzinger's statements were also recorded. After Hullmann had continued to abuse children in the diocese of Munich-Freising, Vicar General Gruber initially assumed responsibility for it. However, he later explained to the authors of the report that he had been urged to accept responsibility. In addition, the authors criticize three other cases of misconduct by Ratzinger. On the question of the credibility of Ratzinger's statement to the contrary, the Münster canon lawyer Thomas Schüller explained : "Yes, he [Ratzinger] clearly lied because the [meeting] minutes reported things that only he could know [...]."

Reactions and Admission of Misstatement by Benedict XVI.

The editor-in-chief of the right-wing Catholic weekly Die Tagespost , Guido Horst , commented on the reactions to the publication of the report as follows: "At prime time ... the verdict on Benedict XVI. spoken: guilty. Admittedly, there is a lack of evidence. More precisely: There is not a single one.” The emeritus Curia Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller explained that although he had not read the report, it was clear to him that the then “Archbishop Ratzinger did not knowingly do anything wrong”; At the time, no one knew what reaction to allegations of abuse would have been appropriate. The criticism of Ratzinger comes from the fact that in Germany and other countries "they are interested in harming Joseph Ratzinger" because he represents an orthodox position, but many in Germany wanted a progressive line in church politics. If mistakes were made in dealing with the cases of abuse, Ratzinger knew nothing about them; that is obvious.

According to the Ratzinger biographer Andreas Englisch , Benedict's reputation was permanently damaged by this report and his chance of canonization , as his predecessor had received, was destroyed. The feminist reform initiative Maria 2.0 demanded clear consequences from Ratzinger for the abuse report: "In view of this, we expect that Joseph Ratzinger will refrain from using his papal name and his associated titles and insignia ." The theologian Doris Reisinger states an end to the "myth of the chief investigator" Ratzinger: "The hammer of this report is: We now know that Ratzinger is ready to lie publicly in order to rid himself of his responsibility." […]. "How brazen or how desperate do you have to be to do something like that?" She called for legal and political consequences: "Will politicians and the judiciary drop the kid gloves with which they have been handling the church for too long?"

On January 24, 2022, Benedict XVI corrected in a statement to KNA , his statement from December 2021 to the effect that he did take part in the Ordinariate meeting on January 15, 1980; he explained the contrary false statement in December 2021 as "the consequence of an error in the editorial processing of his statement". He also explained that the meeting did not decide on a future "pastoral assignment" of the priest in the archdiocese, but on his accommodation in Munich during his therapy. He had previously stated that he "did not know the priest and had no recollection of the case". The canon lawyer Thomas Schüller then accused Benedict of continuing to tell untruths. By his statement that he did not know the past history of the priest, he became more and more entangled in his fabrications of lies and "permanently damaged the papal office and thus the Catholic Church".

Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


Cardinal coat of arms of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1988
Cardinal Dean Ratzinger will preside over the funeral ceremonies for Pope John Paul II on April 8, 2005

At the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II intended to appoint Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Only a year and a half in office as Archbishop of Munich, Ratzinger asked for time to think about it. He accepted three years later, when John Paul II emphatically repeated the call: "Now I absolutely must have you." At the same time, Pope John Paul II assured him that he could continue to publish personal writings. Cardinal Ratzinger was then appointed Prefect on November 25, 1981 by Pope John Paul II . On February 15, 1982 he resigned as archbishop. The start of service in Rome was March 1, 1982 with a staff of 40 employees. Upon taking up employment in the service of the Holy See, he received Vatican citizenship , which is function-related and usually limited to the duration of the function in the Vatican. The Federal Republic of Germany also usually allows this dual citizenship. After Ratzinger's election as pope, the federal government declared in response to a small question from Hans-Christian Ströbele that there were no indications of the loss of German citizenship. The government of the Upper Palatinate also stated in a press release that Benedict XVI. continue to be a German citizen. This has been the subject of critical debate in legal doctrine.

As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger advocated priestly celibacy , opposed some aspects of liberation theology , opposed the legal recognition of same-sex relationships, and advocated the topicality of Catholic sex teaching as defined in Humanae vitae . From the point of view of his critics, he was also against pluralistic approaches in the church and calls for decentralization of the church. In January 1998, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger ordered the previously top-secret archives of the Inquisition and Index Congregation to be opened.

The extensive tasks of the Roman world church prompted Ratzinger himself to repeatedly ask the pope for his release in order to be able to devote himself to writing in his Bavarian place of residence Pentling near Regensburg . On his 75th birthday in 2002, he wanted to submit the resignation request that is traditionally submitted when that age is reached. Pope John Paul II said to him beforehand: "You don't need to write the letter because I want you to the end." The pope refused his resignation, so Ratzinger continued his service as Curia cardinal until his election as pope away.

positions and attitudes

Ratzinger's position on ecumenical issues was evaluated differently during his time as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In 1999 he was hailed as an "engine of ecumenism" for his crucial contribution to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification . After the publication of the papal exhortation Dominus Iesus , of which Ratzinger was in charge, many advocates of closer ecumenical interreligious dialogue feared damage to relations between the Catholic Church and Protestantism . The examples show that Ratzinger advocates an ecumenical dialogue, but for him this cannot mean that the Catholic Church ignores, changes or gives up its own faith profiles, convictions and self-image. In 2003, as a result of the Ecumenical Church Congress in Berlin, a conflict ignited between Cardinals Meisner, Ratzinger and Lehmann. In the interreligious dialogue, his participation in the World Prayer Meeting in Assisi in 2002 should be mentioned, which he described as an "important sign for peace". However, this can only be convincing if the religions make peace with each other.

Ratzinger played a large part in the Catechism of the Catholic Church , in the third part of which, among other things, the sexual morality is specified in dogmas and doctrinal rules of the Catholic Church. Critics criticize these definitions, since justifications for these sections are missing or tautological , especially where they - sometimes very far - go beyond those of the ten commandments . This objection is rejected by the Catholic Church , pointing out that the Church has the right to interpret the Bible in a binding manner. On June 28, 2005, as Pope, he presented a Compendium of Catholic Doctrine, a condensed version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to the public. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was also instrumental in its completion. Joseph Ratzinger criticized certain forms of liberation theology and saw them as incompatible with Catholic teaching when they denied fundamental truths of faith, allowed themselves to be politically exploited, represented Marxist demands or propagated the violent implementation of their concerns. This led to pronounced conflicts, e.g. with Leonardo Boff and Gustavo Gutiérrez .

Ratzinger was criticized, among others, by homosexual associations for his negative attitude towards the legal recognition of partnerships between homosexual people. These state recognitions were introduced in many Western countries, including Catholic countries such as France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg and Canada (Quebec), in part during his time as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the 2003 document, Considerations on the Draft Legal Recognition of Cohabitations between Homosexual Persons , he describes this recognition as a "disturbing moral and social phenomenon, even in those countries where it is not recognized in the legal system".

Ratzinger played a decisive role in shaping the line of his predecessor John Paul II on questions of abortion and euthanasia . In Germany , Ratzinger pushed for the exit from the state system of pregnancy conflict counseling because he saw participation as a form of participation in abortions and this contradicted the attitude of Pope John Paul II to protect any human life that, according to Catholic teaching, already occurs with the procreation begins. The exit came against the majority opinion of the German bishops, who were convinced that pregnancy counseling made an important contribution to the protection of unborn life. During the 2004 US presidential campaign, Ratzinger wrote to the US bishops recommending that politicians who campaigned and voted consistently in favor of very permissive abortion and euthanasia laws should be denied Communion; the Catholic and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry stood for such legislation.

According to Christoph Cardinal Schönborn , Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, acted decisively against sexual abuse. On his initiative, in 2001 a special court was set up at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to try abusers. The tightening of the implementation regulations for the corresponding ecclesiastical norms also goes back to him.

Duties in the College of Cardinals

On April 5, 1993, Pope John Paul II appointed him cardinal bishop of the suburbicarian diocese of Velletri-Segni . From 1998 Cardinal Ratzinger served as Subdean of the College of Cardinals ; In 2002 he was elected Cardinal Dean and confirmed in this office by John Paul II. At the same time he was appointed Cardinal Bishop of Ostia . On April 8, 2005, Ratzinger, as Cardinal Dean, presided over the funeral ceremonies for Pope John Paul II in Rome. It also fell to him in this position to lead the daily General Congregation during the vacancy of the Sede and to preside over the conclave of April 18-19, 2005, from which he himself emerged as Pope .



Benedict XVI (2006)
Benedict XVI after the inauguration service in the popemobile
The Pope at the summer residence of Castel Gandolfo , August 2009
Home visit 2006 , Munich
Benedict XVI as head of state on the Vatican 2 euro coin

From the deterioration of Pope John Paul II's health in January 2005, Ratzinger was repeatedly mentioned in the press as his possible successor. He was given great opportunities as interim pope after the previous long pontificate. As one of the most influential cardinals, he was also considered a "popemaker".

The conclave , attended by 115 cardinals, began on April 18, 2005. On the afternoon of April 19, Joseph Ratzinger was elected in the fourth ballot. He gave himself the papal name Benedict XVI. in memory of the founder of the Order , Benedict of Nursia , Patron of Europe, but also of Benedict XV. (Pontificate September 1914 – January 1922), who was called the “Peace Pope” because of his strong commitment to peace during World War I.

After the announcement of the election by Cardinal Protodeacon Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez , Benedict XVI. on the Benedictine loggia of St. Peter's Basilica and addressed the waiting world public:

“Dear sisters and brothers! After a great Pope, John Paul II, the Cardinals elected me, a simple and humble worker in the Lord's vineyard. I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and work even with inadequate tools. Above all, I entrust myself to your prayers. We move forward in the joy of the risen Lord and trusting in his everlasting help. The Lord will help us and Mary, His Most Holy Mother, is at our side. Thank you."

Three days earlier, Joseph Ratzinger had turned 78, making him older than any other pope since Clemens XII when he was elected. (1730). Like his two predecessors from Paul VI. promoted to cardinal, he had served as such for almost 28 years, longer than any pope since Benedict XIII. (election 1724). The election of a German pope was particularly well received in Germany and greeted by the Bild newspaper with the headline : " We are Pope! "

course of the pontificate

On Sunday April 24, 2005, Benedict XVI received as part of a festive service on St. Peter's Square, the fisherman 's ring and the pallium as a sign of Peter's service. In front of several hundred thousand believers and government representatives from all over the world, he emphasized that he did not want to make a government statement. He spoke of an unheard-of task, which surpasses all human ability . At the same time he emphasized: The church is alive, the church is young! In August 2005, Benedict XVI visited the XXth World Youth Day in Cologne . On September 24, 2005, he received the Tübingen theologian Hans Küng , who had been disciplined by the Vatican in 1979, for an interview. From May 25 to May 28, 2006 he visited the homeland of his predecessor John Paul II in Poland .

Shortly after his inauguration, the new Pope confirmed Angelo Cardinal Sodano in his office as Cardinal Secretary of State , as well as all the heads of the congregations . Less than a month later he transferred his former position as chairman of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the then Archbishop of San Francisco , William Joseph Levada . On March 11, 2006, Benedict XVI began a long-awaited curial reform and merged the offices of several papal councils. Reshuffles followed with the appointment of Ivan Cardinal Dias as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on May 20, Tarcisio Bertone as Cardinal Secretary of State and Giovanni Lajolo as President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and the Vatican City Governorate on May 22 June and Cláudio Hummes as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy on October 31, 2006.

In several small decisions, such as the (temporary) use of an old-style pallium or the choice of words when it took possession of the Lateran Basilica , an orientation towards the tradition of the undivided Church before 1054 can be discerned, as well as a more modest and less centralized way of conducting office, which This is shown, for example, in the return of the beatification celebrations to the local churches .

On September 24, 2005 he received Professor em . Hans Küng , who had had his teaching license revoked in 1979, for a four-hour private audience . There was no dispute about the controversial doctrinal questions, the conversation was limited to the question of global ethics and the relationship between natural sciences and Christian faith.

In the inner-Christian dialogue, the efforts to get closer to the orthodox churches are to be noted. At the beginning of 2006, Benedict XVI decided to give up the honorary title of Patriarch of the West , which popes had held since the 5th century. It was then removed from the official title in the 2006 Annuario Pontificio . There had already been an exchange of letters between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow in which Benedict XVI. Birthday greetings and the request for cooperation against the secularized world, as well as the correspondence with the Patriarch of Constantinople on the occasion of the feast of St. Andrew . This latter exchange of letters was followed by Bartholomew I 's invitation to the Pope to visit him in November 2006. Also, on May 18, 2006, the first Russian Orthodox Church in Rome was consecrated by Metropolitan Cyril I , head of the Russian Orthodox Foreign Office. In the course of this visit to Rome there was also a meeting with the Pope.

Tensions between the People's Republic of China and the Vatican arose in May 2006 after the Chinese government -authorized Catholic Patriotic Association ordained two bishops and installed one in two weeks without waiting for Vatican approval. The pope, who considers the association and its principles incompatible with Catholic teaching, later openly criticized restrictions on freedom of religion and conscience in China.

On the World Day of Peace 2007, Benedict XVI emphasized. the duty to " cultivate the consciousness of the double aspect of the gift and the task". Tensions arose in Italy in the spring of 2007 between the church and the government under Romano Prodi , since the government in Italy was planning to recognize homosexual couples by the state. Various politicians in Italy, journalists and artists therefore accused the Vatican and the Pope of what they believed to be an unjustified influence on Italy's domestic politics.

At the opening of the Latin American bishops' conference in the Brazilian city ​​of Aparecida on May 13, 2007, Benedict spoke of the Christianization of Latin America, which was not an imposition of a foreign culture, but rather the natives unconsciously yearned for it. This was contradicted by representatives of the Indians, who described the speech as "arrogant and disrespectful". "To say that the cultural decimation of our people is a purification is insulting and frankly frightening." ( Sandro Tuxa ). The German Latin America historian Hans-Jürgen Prien saw in these statements "an unbelievable falsification of history " and a step backwards compared to the position of John Paul II, who in a speech in 1992 had admitted mistakes in the evangelization of the native tribes and peoples. On the other hand, the Pope declared that the proclamation of Jesus and his gospel never presupposed alienation from the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture. Venezuela 's President Hugo Chávez demanded an apology from the Pope: "With all due respect, you should apologize because there really was genocide here, and if we were to deny it, we would be denying our deepest selves."

On June 26, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI. the Motu Proprio De aliquibus mutationibus in normis de electione Romani Pontificis, which repealed No. 75 of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis of 1988 and replaced it with a regulation according to which a two-thirds majority is required again in any case for the papal election.

In his message for the World Day of Peace 2008, Benedict XVI. the importance of the Christian family for peace in the world.

On April 16, 2008, he was received by President George W. Bush on a six-day trip to the United States . During his trip, Benedict expressed his deep shame about pedophile priests and repeatedly called for purification and renewal of the Catholic Church in the USA after the abuse scandals . He also met with men and women who had been abused by priests as children or adolescents. He praised the deep spirituality in the USA. In a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on April 18, he called on the United Nations to adopt a policy of preventive conflict resolution. All diplomatic means and "even the slightest signs" of a willingness to engage in dialogue would have to be used. At the same time, however, he did not rule out “collective action by the international community”. To conclude his trip, on April 20, the Pope visited Ground Zero , the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center , and celebrated a Holy Mass at Yankee Stadium in front of tens of thousands of visitors.

Another step closer to Orthodoxy was the opening of the Pauline Year on June 28, 2008 to commemorate the approximate 2000th year of the birth of the Apostle Paul with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls and in the presence of Patriarch Bartholomew I. Holy Mass celebrated in St. Peter the following day, the patronal feast of Peter and Paul . In this celebrated Benedict XVI. and Bartholomew I shared the Liturgy of the Word, both preached a sermon, recited the Nicene Creed in Greek, and gave the blessing together.

The International Roman Catholic Old Catholic Dialogue Commission (IRAD), which was set up during the pontificate of John Paul II, continued under Benedict XVI. continued her work and in 2009 published the report Church and Church Fellowship , which describes the separation between the Catholic and Old Catholic Churches as an "inner-Catholic problem" because of the similarities it found. The Dialogue Commission has been meeting regularly since 2012, and Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker and Bishop Matthias Ring were appointed co-chairs.

On June 29, 2010, Benedict announced the establishment of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization for post-Christian communities. On October 11, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI. with the “ Apostolic Exhortation in the form of a Motu proprio Porta fidei ” (Gate of Faith) a year of faith . It began on October 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, and ended on the Feast of Christ the King 2013 (November 24, 2013).

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI. affected by the breach of trust revealed by the so-called Vatileaks affair. Internal documents of the Vatican had become public.

On February 15, 2013, Benedict XVI appointed the Knights of Malta Ernst von Freyberg as the new head of the Vatican Bank .

Public Impact and Criticism


Pope Benedict XVI at the Pentecost Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on May 15, 2005

Already in the first months after his election, Benedict XVI. also met with representatives of Judaism (Rome, Cologne, Vienna) and Muslim communities (Cologne). He always emphasized that he wanted to continue the dialogue between religions and cultures in the tradition of the Second Vatican Council (cf. its declaration Nostra aetate ) and his predecessor – John Paul II.

Benedict XVI was on the Forbes list of the 70 most powerful people in the world. 5th place in December 2012.

The philosopher Hans Albert examined Joseph Ratzinger's methods of dealing with problems and accused him of "an arbitrary restriction of the use of reason in the sense of faith" and arguments based on conceptual confusion, which presupposed a privilege of knowledge on the part of the believer.

After resigning from the papal office, the Secretary General of the United Nations , Ban Ki-moon , said in an interview that Benedict XVI. I have contributed to "overcoming the challenges of our time" and have done a lot for interreligious dialogue.

Andreas Englisch described him in 2022 as a "figurehead of the conservatives".

Image of Jesus and theology

The book of Jesus of Nazareth , published in 2007 in relinquishment of magisterium . From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration as well as the following volume were valued as a personal testimony of faith and a "theological reader" (as Joseph Ratzinger himself characterizes it). The attempt to combine historical-critical and theological exegesis was partly welcomed within historical research on Jesus as an important extension. In this form, however, it was largely classified as methodologically inadequate, an inadmissible unification of the Gospels from the Gospel of John and "uncritical trust" in the sources and rarely taken up directly.

Benedict XVI however, in his Jesus book, he often points to differences with which the authors of the gospels would have preserved the figure of Jesus in their tradition. He sees in the Johannine incarnation theology ("God's becoming man " - the being of God in man as redeemer) and the Pauline theology of the cross ( God's doing in the cross and resurrection as the redemption of man) polarities of the same truth that cannot be synthesized, which "only in refer to the whole in relation to each other”. Through his thesis, also represented in the Jesus Book, that Jesus is identical with his message and his work (intertwining of Jesus' being and doing ), he discovers moments of unity of both historical paths of Christology , which are so particularly emphasized in the Jesus Book.

Uniqueness of the Roman Catholic Church

On July 10, 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a document that emphasized the uniqueness of the Roman Catholic Church. According to this, the orthodox churches are to be described as “genuine particular churches” because they are part of the apostolic succession ; however, they suffered from a "lack" of lacking communion with the Roman Church and the Pope. Metropolitan Cyril of Smolensk and Kaliningrad , chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's external church office, praised "the honesty of the Vatican's understanding of the Church", although he does not share the Holy See's position.

The 2007 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document also stated that Protestants do not form "strict churches" but merely "ecclesial communities" because they cannot appeal to apostolic succession like the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Churches. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith thus reaffirmed the Dominus Iesus declaration published in 2000 , which it had issued under the presidency of the then Prefect Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

That the Protestant churches in Unitatis redintegratio - the final document of the Second Vatican Council on ecumenism - were referred to as "ecclesial communities" was at the time a term that could be interpreted as an expression of appreciation. For the first time, the Protestant Christians were not only perceived positively as individuals (“separated brothers”). The Churches of the Reformation were expressly granted ecclesiastical elements on the basis of the Catholic-theological concept of the Church. In the meantime, however, ecumenism had made progress, and in 1999 the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed by representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church. It culminates in the statement: “The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this declaration is not affected by the condemnations of the Council of Trent. The condemnations of the Lutheran confessions do not apply to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this declaration.” The chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany , Bishop Wolfgang Huber , therefore spoke in connection with the statements of the Pope in 2007 of a “setback for ecumenism” . . The Bavarian Bishop Johannes Friedrich explained that the Protestant side did not want to be a church in the way the Catholic Church defines itself, and assessed the document as “not a rejection of ecumenical efforts.”

The Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has been working to clarify its ecclesiology since 1993 . The study document The Church: Towards a Shared Vision is a convergence text received by the WCC central committee in 2012 and published the following year.

Lecture in Regensburg - Dialogue with Islam

On his second visit as Pope to Germany, Benedict XVI. gave a lecture to scientists at the University of Regensburg on September 12, 2006. In it he quoted a statement by the late medieval Byzantine Emperor Manuel II on the role of violence in Islam . The dictum that became known as the “ Pope Quote from Regensburg ” was described by a number of representatives of Islam as hate speech and was heavily criticized. On the other hand, 38 high-ranking Islamic scholars were conciliatory. In an open letter dated October 12, 2006, they contradicted the description of their faith in the quote used in the Pope's speech, but at the same time advocated a continuation of the dialogue between Christianity and Islam.

Especially after Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey. many initially critical voices reassessed the speech. The Islamic newspaper Zaman spoke of the fact that “the dialogue between the religions has really got going” and Die Zeit – initially very harsh in its criticism – now spoke appreciatively of the “wise man in the Orient”, who “is the most important authority in the Islamic world of the West will". In conclusion, Cardinal Lehmann, then President of the German Bishops' Conference , said with regard to the Regensburg lecture that there was nothing to take back or apologize for. If the discussion about the speech served to make the dialogue between Christianity and Islam more serious, it made good sense. Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone described the "Regensburg case" to Vatican Radio as an "archaeological relic". The Pope has shown that he is open to a true dialogue with Islam.

On May 2, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI. a delegation of Shia Muslims from Iran led by Mahdi Mostafavi . The Holy See and the Iranian theologians had previously agreed in Rome on a joint declaration on "Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam". Among other things, the statement emphasizes that faith and reason are "inherently nonviolent" and should never be used for violence.

relations with Judaism

Benedict XVI and the Polish President Lech Kaczyński visiting the concentration camp Auschwitz I (main camp, 2006)

On various occasions of his pontificate, Benedict XVI used the opportunity to meet and dialogue with representatives of Judaism . On August 19, during his trip to World Youth Day 2005, he was the first pope ever to visit the Cologne synagogue , a Jewish place of worship in Germany, where he condemned every form of racism and anti-Semitism in a speech . He also announced that he wanted to continue "with full force" the "trustful dialogue" between Jews and Christians initiated by John Paul II, but also recalled "the complex and often painful relationships" between Christians and Jews. Furthermore, during this visit he advocated a sincere and trusting dialogue between the two religions and emphasized their common roots. The visit to the meeting room of the synagogue was preceded by participation in the Kaddish , a Jewish prayer for the dead , for the 11,000 Cologne Jews who fell victim to the Holocaust. Synagogue leader Abraham Lehrer , who said that Benedict stands for acceptance and tolerance of Judaism, welcomed the Pope as the "greatest bridge builder" between religions. The chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany , Paul Spiegel , later recognized the Pope's speech as a hopeful sign of understanding between Jews and Christians.

During his apostolic journey to Poland , Benedict XVI. on May 28, 2006 the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau . While Holocaust survivors such as Marek Edelman praised the visit and the speech held there, the Polish chief rabbi , Michael Schudrich , criticized the fact that the pope in Auschwitz did not comment on the topic of anti-Semitism in Poland, such as that broadcast by the national-conservative Catholic radio station Radio Maryja . Daniel Goldhagen also voiced criticism, accusing the Pope of obscuring historical understanding and evading moral responsibility and shirking political duty.

The lifting of the excommunication of four SSPX bishops, including Richard Williamson , who had repeatedly denied the Holocaust, strained relations between the Holy See and Judaism. The Pope responded with a February 12, 2009 private audience for delegates from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations , in which he repeated the prayer of Pope John Paul II in 2000 at the Wailing Wall , strongly condemning the Holocaust and the irrevocable emphasized the Church's obligation to treat the people of the Union with respect and harmony. Rabbi David Rosen , then chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), said Pope Benedict had turned a minus into a plus.

In July 2012, Rabbi Rosen said that relations between Jews and Catholics had never been better. In response to Benedikt's declaration of resignation, the Israeli Chief Rabbi Jona Metzger had a spokesman explain: "During his tenure there were the best relations between the Church and the Chief Rabbinate [...] He deserves a high reputation for expanding the interreligious connections between Judaism, Christianity and Islam .” The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany said: “Pope Benedict XVI. gave new impetus to the Jewish-Christian relationship and filled it with warmth.” The Israeli President Shimon Peres and the President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder , made similar statements .

The document Grace and Calling without Remorse – Notes on the Tractate De Iudaeis of October 2017 caused controversial reactions. This text was intended as a private reflection of Benedict XVI. originated and was not actually intended for publication, but was published in 2018 at the suggestion of Kurt Cardinal Koch, who wrote the foreword. According to Koch, it is "an important response to the Vatican Commission's invitation to an in-depth theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism." The Berlin Rabbi Walter Homolka , on the other hand, explained that anyone who describes the role of Judaism in this way is “helping to build the new foundation for Christian anti-Semitism”. As a result, Benedict published an exchange of letters with the Viennese Chief Rabbi Arie Folger and stated again in November of that year that Judaism and Christianity stand for two ways of interpreting the Scriptures. For Christians, the promises to Israel are the hope of the church. Anyone who adheres to this is by no means questioning the foundations of the Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Dealing with the Priestly Society of St. Pius X

After speaking to the Superior General of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X , Bernard Fellay , on August 29, 2005, Benedict XVI undertook. further steps towards rapprochement, in that in January 2009 he lifted the 1988 excommunication of four bishops consecrated by Marcel Lefebvre without the consent of the Pope at the time, who belong to the Priestly Society of St. Pius X. Like Benedict XVI In 2010 it was clarified again that the four bishops "had to be acquitted of the excommunication for purely legal reasons" because they had previously recognized in a letter the primacy of the pope in general and the incumbent pope in particular, and hence the reason for the excommunication pronounced in 1988 - the episcopal consecration without the consent of the Pope - no longer existed. Benedict XVI also explained that this is the same process that is also used analogously in China: If a bishop consecrated there without the consent of the pope recognizes the primacy of the pope, the excommunication imposed on him will also be lifted, since it is not be more justified. As a result of this decision, the four bishops may again receive the sacraments - in particular communion and penance - but they remain suspended, i.e. they are not allowed to exercise their office, so that all their official acts are considered illicit. In addition to Fellay himself, these bishops also included Richard Williamson , who attracted attention in 1989 and 2008 for his Holocaust denials .

The Pope's move undermined good relations between Catholics and Jews , according to a statement by the Anti-Defamation League in the United States. In Germany, too, the move was regretted by Dieter Graumann , the vice-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany ; the Society of St. Pius X itself criticized Williamson's statements and asked the Pope for forgiveness. On January 28, 2009, the Pope, without mentioning Williamson by name, described the extermination of the Jews during the Nazi era as a "memorial against all forgetting and denial" and assured the Jewish people of his "full and undeniable solidarity." On February 4 In 2009, the Vatican Secretariat of State announced that the four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X remained suspended from priestly and episcopal offices and that Richard Williamson had to "in an absolutely unequivocal and public manner distance himself from his statements on the Shoah" in order to accept a post as bishop in the Vatican to be admitted to the Catholic Church; it was also stated that Benedict XVI. was unaware of Williamson's Holocaust denial at the time the excommunication was lifted. In the summer of 2009, the Bishop of Stockholm, Anders Arborelius , stated that he had already informed the Vatican of Williamson's Holocaust denial in the fall of 2008; the former Curia Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos contradicted this representation. Benedict XVI reiterated in 2010 that, knowing of the Holocaust denial, he had not lifted Williamson's excommunication and had treated his case separately from the lifting of the excommunication of the other three bishops. The then head of the German-speaking editorial department of Vatican Radio, Father Eberhard von Gemmingen , criticized the Pope and his media advisors on the same day: “Up until now, the Pope has had no intuition or advisor who can tell him what the political consequences of this or any statement will be has."

However, there were also a number of Jewish voices who contradicted these statements and who regard the Pope's decision as an internal matter of the Catholic Church that does not endanger the Jewish-Christian dialogue . Gary L. Krupp, Jewish President of the Pave the Way Foundation, criticized what he described as "abridged" public accounts of the lifting of the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops, stressing that in the past the schisms caused by excommunications have led to the emergence of new ones led by religious communities. In the case of the Society of Saint Pius X, which he believes has an estimated one million followers, had the pope not now taken the initiative to end this schism, Krupp said, “one day our children and grandchildren could emerge from a vicious right-wing religion see". Referring to Williamson, Krupp asked, "Shall we allow bizarre statements and beliefs by this one man to damage the Jewish-Catholic dialogue, which has consistently been treated as a major focus of the Church and of this pontificate? We say: no!”

In a letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on March 10, 2009, the pope regretted “that the lifting of the excommunication was overshadowed by the Williamson case. The gentle gesture of mercy towards four bishops who were validly but not legitimately consecrated suddenly appeared as something completely different: as a rejection of Christian-Jewish reconciliation. The Pope continues, “I hear that following the news available on the Internet carefully would have allowed the problem to be known in good time. I learn from this that we at the Holy See must pay more attention to this source of news in the future.” But he also notes that much of the reporting was inaccurate or even misrepresented and continues: “It saddens me that Catholics, who actually knew better, who felt they had to lash out at me with ready hostility. I am all the more grateful to my Jewish friends who helped to quickly resolve the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust which - as in the time of Pope John Paul II - also throughout my pontificate had passed and thank God continues to exist."

Bioethics and protection of life

In his first sermon as Pope in San Giovanni in Laterano , Benedict emphasized that he would stick to the teachings of the Church and the positions of his predecessor on questions of abortion and euthanasia : “When he [John Paul II] accepted the erroneous interpretations of faced with freedom, he unequivocally underlined the inviolability of the human being, the inviolability of human life from conception to natural death.”

With regard to genetic engineering measures, he differentiates between therapeutic and manipulative objectives in the instruction Dignitas personae , which he has approved . Genetic interventions in human body cells with strictly therapeutic objectives are "in principle morally permissible", while with regard to germline therapy it is not permissible "to do something that transmits possible damage to the offspring". Non-therapeutic goals are viewed as a violation of human dignity and are rejected.

In his 2009 encyclical Caritas in veritate , he praised technology as a means of overcoming material limitations. At the same time, he emphasized responsibility – it shouldn't just be about the "how" but also about the "why". He warned against "development and promotion of in-vitro fertilization , embryo research , possibilities of cloning and human hybridization ." Possible future "systematic eugenic birth planning" is just like abortion an expression of a "culture of death". In the same context, Benedict again condemned euthanasia as "an expression of dominance over life, which under certain conditions is no longer considered worth living."

Speech in the German Bundestag on September 22, 2011

On September 22, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI. as part of his third apostolic journey to Germany , he gave a widely acclaimed speech in the German Bundestag . It was the first speech by a pope before an elected German parliament. He followed an invitation from the President of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert . In this speech he presented thoughts on the foundations of the free constitutional state. Particular attention was paid to the concept of a "human ecology", which he discussed in the context of his defense of natural law . The announcement that the Pope would give a speech in the Bundestag provoked protests. "Around 100 of the 620 parliamentarians want to boycott the performance because they consider it incompatible with the religious neutrality of the state."

Papal Journeys

From Benedict XVI countries visited (dark blue: multiple visits)

Benedict XVI completed a total of 24 apostolic journeys to non-Italian countries and 31 inner-Italian pastoral journeys (including to San Marino ) and two Italian state visits . In doing so, he continued the travel activities of his predecessor , who undertook a total of 104 trips abroad during his 26-year tenure.

Benedict XVI's first trip abroad was in August 2005 for the XX. World Youth Day in Cologne . Further apostolic journeys to Germany took place in 2006 and 2011. He also came to Spain three times : in 2006, 2010 and on the XXVI. World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid . His last trip abroad took him to Lebanon in September 2012 .

On his further apostolic journeys he visited Poland , Turkey , Brazil , Austria , United States , Australia ( XXIII World Youth Day ), France , Cameroon , Angola , Jordan , Israel , Czech Republic , Malta , Portugal , Cyprus , United Kingdom , Croatia , Benin , Mexico and Cuba .

Within Italy he visited on his pastoral trips u. a. Milan , Venice , Naples , Turin with a pilgrimage to the Shroud of Turin , Genoa , Verona and the pilgrimage sites of Assisi and Loreto twice each . He spent most of the summer months every year in the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills.


Benedict with the white Easter Mozetta (2011)
Benedict with the new circular pallium (2008)
Benedict with the red Saturno (2007)

The question of the nature and form of the liturgy emerged as a focus of the pontificate. At the Pope's request, the edition of his "Collected Writings", published by the then Bishop of Regensburg Gerhard Ludwig Müller , was opened in 2008 with his contributions to the liturgy (Vol. 11), because this "is significant for my thinking." Even as a cardinal Ratzinger criticized various manifestations in the implementation of liturgical reform after Vatican II and was personally "convinced that the church crisis that we are experiencing today is largely due to the disintegration of the liturgy." As he described in his 2000 book Der Geist of the liturgy that the church always has to pay attention to the common orientation of priests and believers to the east (alternatively to an "East of faith") when performing the liturgy. The rectification of those gathered symbolized a procession of the participating people of God, while the priest's turning to the people forms a self-contained circle, i.e. no longer symbolizes a departure. He drew attention to the fact that this conception of liturgy had become obscured in modern times and that "every time the essentials had to be found and expressed anew". In this sense, he advocated bringing the altar and thus the actual place of the sacrifice of the mass closer to the people, which the liturgical reform had brought about. He pleaded for returning the altar cross to its central place in the liturgy, i.e. placing it back in the middle of the altar so that priests and believers can visibly turn “towards the Lord”.

In July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI. in the Apostolic Exhortation Summorum Pontificum that Holy Mass is to be celebrated by every priest except in the ordinary form (forma ordinaria) of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of Paul VI. without further ado in the extraordinary form (forma extraordinaria) of the Roman rite after the last under John XXIII. 1962 printed Missal may be celebrated, since this traditional form has never been abolished. In an accompanying letter to all bishops, the pope emphasized the pastoral aspect of his decree. According to some observers, with this step he questioned the theological foundation of the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council . When a Mass celebrated by Benedict in 2008 in the Sistine at the historical high altar instead of at the popular altar, which had been used in the meantime , sparked the relevant discussion again, the Vatican declared that the Pope did not intend to reverse the liturgical reform, referring to the theological ones that were independent of the form Basic ideas of the celebration in common orientation.

The Pope reacted to the church and Jewish criticism of the use of the earlier Good Friday intercession for the Jews , which became loud after Benedict's Motuproprio Summorum Pontificum , by drafting and decreing a reformulation of this request solely for the extraordinary form. His failure to completely abolish intercession, which some judged to be anti-Judaist , in favor of the Ordinary Form version in use since 1970, sparked a public debate and, according to some observers, strained the Jewish-Christian dialogue.

In a letter dated April 14, 2012 to Archbishop Zollitsch , then chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference , Benedict decreed that the words “pro multis” in the canon prayers of the Mass in the German Missal should again be reproduced verbatim with “for many” instead of “for all”. . This was implemented in 2013 in the new edition of the German-language Catholic prayer and song book Gotteslob , but a revision of the official German altar missal is still pending.

The emphasis on liturgical continuity is also symbolically expressed in the Pope's pontificate. After the replacement of the position of papal master of ceremonies by the Italian priest Guido Marini , the changes envisaged in the book The Spirit of the Liturgy were implemented in the papal liturgy. In addition, the Pope often uses paraments that are reminiscent of Gothic or Baroque designs in their language of form. The modern designed ferula , which since Paul VI. had been used, he had it replaced in 2009 - also because of its size and its heavy weight, which together with the heavy paraments is a hindrance when walking - with a model based on classic designs, which was donated to him by the Roman charity "Circolo San Pietro".


On February 11, 2013, Benedict XVI. during a consistory on February 28, 2013, 8 p.m. (CET), "to renounce the office of Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, [...]". He had "reached the certainty" that his strength was no longer suitable as a result of his advanced age "to exercise the Petrine ministry in an appropriate manner". The documentary film Defender of Faith by Christoph Röhl (2019) considers this motif to be advanced; he argues that Ratzinger resigned because it was increasingly reported that he and his close associates played an important role in the corruption and abuse of wards within the Catholic Church. This view was later supported by the report on the abuse scandal in Munich and Freising published in January 2022 , which attested Benedict's clear complicity.

For the first time since Gregory XII. , Benedict XIII. and John XXIII. who had lost their offices as a result of the Council of Constance from 1414 to 1418, a pope did not resign from office through death. By his own decision, this was last done in 1294 Celestine V. , whose relics Benedict XVI. in April 2009 in L'Aquila and in July 2010 after their transfer due to the earthquake in Sulmona .

Regarding the last official acts of Benedict XVI. included the acceptance of Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien's resignation as Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh on February 25, 2013, and the issuing of the motu proprio Normas nonnullas on February 22, 2013, granting the College of Cardinals the right if the presence of all Eligible voters are set to vote to begin the conclave earlier than the fifteenth day of the Sede vacancy. This was used immediately: the conclave to choose the successor began on March 12th.

Emeritus Pope

Letterhead and signature of Pope Benedict XVI. emeritus

After a general audience in St. Peter's Square on February 27, 2013 and further audiences on February 28, Benedict XVI. returned to Castel Gandolfo in the afternoon , where he showed himself to the faithful for the last time as Pope in the early evening. At 20:00 CET, the Swiss Guardsmen closed the gates of the Papal Palace and left their posts, signaling the end of the pontificate to the public. Benedict XVI is referred to as "Pope Emeritus" or "Roman Pontifex Emeritus" ( Summus Pontifex emeritus ), addressed "Holy Father" or "Your Holiness". In a FAZ report by Jörg Bremer, however, Benedikt himself wishes that he would only be addressed as "Father Benedict". Furthermore, he continues to wear the white cassock, but without the pellegrina and cingulum , and the white pileolus .

On March 23, 2013, Benedict XVI received in Castel Gandolfo Pope Francis for a private visit. This was the first time in over 700 years that a pope emeritus met his successor in office. Francis designated himself and Benedict XVI. as "brothers," and both shared a prayer bench in a small chapel. The emeritus pope vowed unconditional obedience to his successor.

After an area of ​​the Mater Ecclesiae monastery was converted for his residence, Benedict returned to the Vatican on May 2, 2013, where he was welcomed by Pope Francis. He celebrated the first public consistory of his successor Pope Francis on February 22, 2014 in St. Peter's Basilica. On March 4, 2014, Pope Francis gave an interview in which he for the first time commented in detail on the relationship with his predecessor, including the joint decision that Benedict should again participate more in public church life. In March 2014, the Milan daily Corriere della Sera conducted an interview with Benedict XVI. On April 27, 2014 he attended the canonization of Pope John XXIII. and John Paul II by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square and also in the beatification of Pope Paul VI. on October 19, 2014.

In July 2018, the publication of Benedict XVI. Originally written for internal use, Grace and Calling Without Remorse caused a stir. The text deals with the definition of the relationship between the Catholic Church and Judaism and specifies the terms “ substitution theology ” and “uncancelled covenant”.

In an essay published “with the express permission of Francis” in April 2019, on the February 2019 meeting of the Presidents of all the World Bishops’ Conferences, Benedict XVI. the "loosening of morality" in the course of the 1968 movement for sexual abuse in the Catholic Church . During this time, a "collapse of Catholic moral theology " also occurred, which made parts of the Church "defenseless against what is happening in society", according to Benedict XVI. In various seminaries, " homosexual clubs were formed that acted more or less openly and changed the atmosphere in the seminaries significantly". Benedict pointed out the need for society and the church to return to basic Christian values, love and the revelation of God, since such levels of abuse and pedophilia could only have arisen through a distance from God. The text also provoked criticism from Catholic theologians and was the subject of controversy.

In an essay written in 2019 in the book Des profondeurs de nos cœurs (“From the depths of our hearts”) published by Curia Cardinal Robert Sarah in 2020 , Benedict XVI emeritus measures attaches great importance to celibacy. This is the basic prerequisite for the priest's approach to God remaining the basis of the priestly life. The vocations to the priesthood and to marriage seemed to him incompatible, since the ministry of the priest required total dedication to God. When first presented, the book gave the impression that Benedict XVI. be co-editor of the book; On the cover were the name and picture of the emeritus pope, Benedict's signature under the foreword and epilogue. Benedict XVI distanced himself from co-authorship, and his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein , had this misleading information removed on behalf of the emeritus. The timing of the statement has been described as sensitive by commentators as it comes at a time when incumbent Pope Francis is expected to decide on a proposal from the Amazon Synod to allow suitable men to be ordained to the priesthood in Amazonia even if they already have families . Cologne's domradio saw "a certain explosiveness" in the choice of the time of publication of the book, which was before the publication of the post-synodal apostolic letter Querida Amazonia on the so-called Amazon Synod, and took the position that Benedict was being misused "put forward by his environment". . In the biography Benedict XVI , published in May 2020 . A life of Peter Seewald , Benedict expressed in the chapter Last Questions to Benedict XVI.

From June 18 to 22, 2020, the Pope Emeritus traveled to Regensburg to visit his brother Georg Ratzinger , whose health had deteriorated steadily in the previous days. He also visited his former home in Pentling and the family grave in Ziegetsdorf . The trip was Benedict's first stay outside of Italy since resigning from office. Georg Ratzinger died on July 1, 2020. In August 2020, it was reported that the Pope Emeritus contracted facial erysipelas after returning to Rome . As his final resting place, Benedict XVI. the former tomb of St. John Paul II . in the crypt of St. Peter because he felt a special bond with his predecessor.

papal coat of arms

Pope Coat of Arms of Benedict XVI.

Benedict XVI adopted as pope a new coat of arms designed by Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo . The new papal coat of arms contains symbols that were already found in his archbishop's coat of arms: the Corbinian bear of the diocesan patron Corbinian from the city coat of arms of Freising and the crowned Moor from the coat of arms of the archbishops of Munich-Freising , supplemented by a shell as an allusion to a legend about the Augustine , the theologian particularly valued by the Pope, and the pilgrim symbol of the scallop shell .

Flowerbed with the Coat of Arms of Pope Benedict in the Vatican Gardens

Surprisingly, Benedict had the papal tiara , which for centuries rose above the coat of arms with the crossed keys , replaced by a simple episcopal miter , which, however, similar to the crown circlets of the tiara, is adorned with three golden bands that stand for the three powers of the pope: ordained office, Jurisdiction and Magisterium. These are linked vertically in the center to show their unity in the same person. By choosing the miter instead of the tiara in the papal coat of arms, Benedict XVI. again and again emphasized collegiality of the bishops are presented. However , the standard of the Swiss Guard still showed Benedict's coat of arms crowned with the tiara. The pallium is shown for the first time in a papal coat of arms below the coat of arms - as a sign of the supervision and pastoral office of a metropolitan .

Pope Benedict XVI Foundations and Museums

The spiritual heritage of Joseph Ratzinger / Benedikt XVI. researched and preserved, or his life and work presented.


Bust of Pope Benedict XVI. in front of his Primizkirche St. Oswald in Traunstein. Sculptor: Johann Brunner
Bronze statue on the wall of the Congregational Hall on Kapellplatz in Altötting

Awards, honors and memberships

In 1991 Ratzinger became a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Salzburg/Austria. In addition, Benedict XVI. Member or corresponding member of other scientific academies in Europe , honorary doctorate from ten universities and honorary citizen of the municipalities of Pentling (1987), Marktl am Inn (1997), Traunstein (2006), Regensburg (2006), Aschau am Inn (2006), Altötting (2006 ), Tittmoning (2007), Brixen (2008), Mariazell (2009), Freising (2010), Romano Canavese (2010), Natz-Schabs (2011) and Surberg (2018). He was awarded three literary prizes in Italy for his work as a writer.

Even before his pontificate, Ratzinger received numerous orders and awards in Germany, Italy and other countries; These include the Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit of the Republic of Ecuador (1977), the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art (1995) and the Karl Valentin Order of the Munich Carnival (1989). In 1985, the Federal Republic of Germany first awarded him the Grand Cross of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany with star and sash ; In 1994 he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany , the highest level of the Order. An award of the special Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany , which was planned as part of a state visit in 2011, did not take place because Benedict XVI. did not accept secular orders.

Appropriate compositions

  • The Clear, Pure, White Light , for solo voice, flute and organ, by Ludger Stühlmeyer (2006), dedicated to his 79th birthday.
  • Who believes is never alone , for choir (SATB), by Christian Dostal (2006), dedicated to the visit to Bavaria .
  • Missa Solemnis - Tu es Petrus , for choir and orchestra, by Wolfgang Seifen (2007), dedicated to his 80th birthday.
  • Missa pro Papa , for choir (SATB), strings and organ, by Wolfram Menschick (2009), dedication: "Sancto Patri Benedicto XVI. dedicated".
  • Non quia dominamur , for choir (SATB), brass, timpani and organ by Christian Heiss (2011), commissioned as a gift from the German Bishops' Conference and presented during a visit to Germany on 25 September 2011.
  • Our Father , for boys' voice or countertenor and string quintet or string orchestra, by Arvo Pärt (2005/2013), dedication: "To the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI".


teaching writing


  • 2006: Deus caritas est ("God is love")
  • 2007: Spe salvi ("On Hope [We Are] Saved")
  • 2009: Caritas in veritate ("Love in truth")
  • The encyclical Lumen fidei ("Light of Faith") was published by Benedict XVI. started and ended by his successor Francis. Benedict “had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. […] In fraternity in Christ, I undertake his valuable work and complete the text with a few other contributions,” wrote Francis in the introduction to the encyclical, which he signed on June 29, 2013.

Apostolic Letters (Selection)

  • Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis ("Sacrament of Love") on the Eucharist - Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church (February 22, 2007). Herein the results of the XI. Ordinary Plenary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops , held October 2-23, 2005 at the Vatican.
  • Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church (September 30, 2010). Herein the results of the XII. Ordinary Plenary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held at the Vatican from October 5th to 26th, 2008.
  • Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus on the Church in Africa in the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace (November 19, 2011). Herein are presented the results of the II Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, which took place from October 4th to 25th, 2009 in the Vatican.
  • Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus on the Establishment of Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans Entering Full Communion with the Catholic Church (November 4, 2009)
  • Motu proprio for the approval and publication of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (June 28, 2005)
  • Motu proprio De aliquibus mutationibus in normis (June 26, 2007)
  • Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (July 7, 2007)
  • Motu proprio antiqua ordinatione (June 21, 2008)
  • Motu proprio Ecclesiae unitatem (2 July 2009)
  • Motu proprio omnium in mentem amending certain norms of the Code of Canon Law (October 26, 2009)
  • Motu proprio Ubicumque et semper establishing the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization (September 21, 2010)
  • Motu proprio on preventing and defending against illegal activities in the field of finance and currency (December 30, 2010). The starting point of this letter are the allegations against the Vatican Istituto per le Opere di Religione , the so-called Vatican Bank, for money laundering . In this Apostolic Exhortation, the Pope sets international standards for Vatican finances. In addition, global money laundering and possible financing of terrorism should be prevented. He decreed that a "Financial Information Authority," a sort of regulator, should be set up to enforce and monitor the law. Another aim of these provisions is to get on the “ white list ” of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ( OECD ). This list unites the states with strict controls against illegal financial transactions.
  • Motu proprio porta fidei proclaiming a Year of Faith 2012–2013 (11 October 2011)
  • Motu proprio Latina lingua establishing the Pontifical Academy for the Latin language Pontificia Academia Latinitatis ad experimentum for a period of five years (November 10, 2012)

Academic and other publications (selection)

Ratzinger's publications amount to over 600 titles. Much of his scientific work did not immediately lead to his own publications, but was reflected in various committees, commissions and church official documents.

A bibliography published by Augsburg's Sankt Ulrich Verlag provides a comprehensive overview of Ratzinger's work up to his election as Pope . A large part of Ratzinger's work is from 2008 by the Regensburg Institute of Pope Benedict XVI. re-edited by Herder Verlag in the 16-volume book series Joseph Ratzinger: Collected Writings (JRGS) . Here is a selection of important publications:


To the biography

  • Joseph Ratzinger (autobiographical): From my life. (1927-1977) . Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-453-16509-8 .

Theology and Faith Discussion

Philosophy and Politics/Culture Analysis

other topics


In 2019 the documentary film Defender of the Faith by Christoph Röhl and the feature film The Two Popes were released, in which Benedict XVI. is portrayed by Anthony Hopkins . Hopkins received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for this role.

web links

Commons : Benedict XVI  – Collection of images
Wikiquote: Benedict XVI.  – Quotations


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  157. The president of the Jewish foundation "Pave the Way" opposes criticism of the Pope ( Memento of February 5, 2015 in the Internet Archive ).
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predecessor government office successor
Julius Cardinal Döpfner Archbishop of Munich and Freising
Frederick Cardinal Wetter
Franjo Cardinal Seper Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
William Joseph Cardinal Levada
Sebastiano Cardinal Baggio Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni
Francis Cardinal Arinze
Bernardin Cardinal Gantin Cardinal Dean  / Cardinal Bishop of Ostia
Angelo Cardinal Sodano
John Paul II CoA Benedictus XVI.svgPope