Pope Benedict XVI passes away at 95
The 95-year-old Pope Benedict XVI passed away on Saturday in Vatican City, becoming the first pope to resign since the fifteenth century.
According to the Vatican press office, Benedict had been experiencing deteriorating health due to his elderly age for several days before Pope Francis made public the news of his deteriorating condition earlier this week.
According to the Vatican, Pope Francis will preside over Benedict’s burial on Thursday at St. Peter’s Square.
Joseph Ratzinger, who was born in Bavaria, Germany, on April 16, 1927, was trained as a theologian. Ratzinger was chosen as Pope John Paul II’s successor in 2005 after working as the Vatican’s top orthodoxy enforcer for twenty-five years. In the eleventh century, he was the first pope from Germany.
Benedict is known for his nearly eight years as pope as one of the most traditional popes in recent memory and as a church leader who, by opting to retire, changed the trajectory of the papacy.
“After constantly examining my conscience before God, I have reached the assurance that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suitable to an appropriate practice of the Petrine ministry,” Benedict XVI shockingly declared on February 11, 2013.
After a fall in 2012 while on a visit to Mexico, according to Gerard O’Connell, Vatican correspondent for the Jesuit magazine America, Benedict realized he could no longer carry out his papal duties.
O’Connell referred to the interview book Last Testament: In His Own Words and remarked, “Here is a man who in prayer discovered his boundaries and said, “I can go so far, I do not have the physical strength to go further, and thus I resign.” He felt at ease knowing that he had chosen wisely.
But many detractors thought he had made several poor choices while pope. The numerous crises of Benedict’s pontificate masked his attempts to restore Christianity in secularised Europe, which he claimed was under threat from a “dictatorship of relativism.”
When he lifted the ex-communication of a traditionalist bishop who denied the Holocaust, he offended Jews; he received harsh criticism from European politicians for his remarks that condoms contribute to the spread of AIDS; power struggles at the Vatican revealed that he had little control over the church hierarchy; and his papacy was marred by clerical sex abuse scandals.
Since Benedict believed that Islam and Catholicism could not coexist on an equal footing, this belief contributed to one of the darkest crises of his pontificate.
Benedict cited a comment made by a 14th-century emperor mocking Islam in a lecture he gave at the University of Regensburg in September 2006: “Show me just what Mohammed 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.”
The statement infuriated Muslims all around the world. A few months later, after Benedict visited Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and prayed quietly next to a Muslim cleric, tensions started to relax.
enlisted in Hitler’s armed forces
The youngest of three children, Ratzinger was born in the Bavarian hamlet of Marktl am Inn in the interwar era.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, he was 6 years old. According to historian Michael Frassetto, his parents, a police officer and a hotel chef were devout Catholics who resisted the Nazi dictatorship.
Ratzinger enrolled in a seminary at the age of twelve. He was forced to join the Hitler Youth during the height of World War II while he was a teenager. He was enlisted in the military in 1943 and spent a short time in an anti-aircraft battalion.
He very rarely discussed his experiences with the Third Reich or the Catholic Church in public throughout his lifetime.
Ratzinger started his work as a theology professor after being consecrated as a priest in 1951. He was chosen to serve as the Second Vatican Council’s theological advisor in 1962, whose reforms brought the Catholic Church into the 20th century.
Ratzinger, however, felt that the spirit of Vatican II had been compromised by the decade’s end.
He was named Munich’s archbishop by Pope Paul VI in 1977.
He was appointed to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Roman Inquisition, by Pope John Paul II four years later.
He spent 24 years in that position. One of his most contentious writings at the time was “Dominus Jesus,” which emphasized the Catholic Church’s supremacy and labeled non-Christian religions as “gravely deficient”; this could have undermined the progress made during Vatican II toward dialogue between Catholicism and other denominations and religions.
Ratzinger gained notoriety as the Vatican’s watchdog over doctrine when he punished dissenting theologians and defended the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, married priests, and female priests.
He described homosexuality as an “objective disease and an intrinsic moral evil” in a document from 1986.
As a pope, Benedict maintained his opposition to stem cell research, abortion, contraception, and divorce.
But Benedict occasionally gave ground. His return to the traditional Latin Mass in 2008, complete with its Good Friday prayer urging Jews to convert, attracted vehement protest from Jewish groups, prompting the Vatican to modify the prayer’s language.
A few months later, after Benedict released the ex-communication of a rebel bishop named Richard Williamson who had openly questioned the Holocaust, ties between Jews and Catholics were once more in jeopardy. F
ollowing the widespread outcry, Benedict acknowledged it was an “unforeseen mishap” in a letter to his bishops. Despite the bishop’s comments being widely shared online, he claimed he had no prior information that Williamson denied the Holocaust.
The pope continued by saying he had learned to pay closer attention while searching online for information.
However, Benedict once more incited a great deal of ire when he declared he was placing the pope from World War II on the path to sainthood for what Benedict called his “heroic virtues.” Many people believe that Pope Pius XII should have condemned the Holocaust more vehemently. Sainthood is still being considered.
Effects of resignation
Massimo Faggioli, a church historian, claimed that he thinks Benedict’s papacy was ultimately unsuccessful because it had a solely intellectual and theological view of the world.
“Because the role of pope is that of pastor-in-chief rather than a head theologian. The enchantment of the papal position is that, “said Faggioli.
However, the historian claimed that Benedict’s papacy’s greatest impact was how he ended it. Faggioli stated that Benedict XVI’s resignation “was a very radical interpretation of Vatican II.” “That was revolutionary—going beyond the letter of Vatican II.”
According to O’Connell of America magazine, Benedict mentioned his successor in his final words to the cardinals before departing the Vatican.
The correspondent stated that the man “promised he would give devotion and obedience to his successor, and he respected that vow in a whole, absolute way.”
In the months following Pope Francis’ election in March 2013, Benedict quietly resided in a home on Vatican property.
The pope emeritus infrequently appeared in public or made comments on his successor despite demands from many church conservatives to do so.
However, Benedict refuted allegations made by certain Vatican watchers that he was working covertly to undermine the Francis papacy in an approved biography that was published in May in Germany. According to a comment from him, he was the victim of a “malignant distortion of reality.”
A German Catholic Church investigation from 2022 criticized Benedict for how he handled four allegations of sexual abuse in Munich four decades earlier. When he served as the archbishop of Munich, the pope emeritus acknowledged that there had been abuses and mistakes. However, he refuted the wrongdoing accusations.
Many Vatican watchers assert that the response would damage his reputation as a person, a theologian, and the leader of the Catholic Church, especially given that he showed no compassion for the victims.
Global leaders recall Benedict
As they remembered Benedict’s efforts to advance peace, world leaders voiced their sorrow over his passing.
Benedict’s resignation, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, was a “powerful signal,” and President Biden, the second Catholic president of the United States, expressed sympathy for Benedict’s passing on behalf of Catholics everywhere.
In a statement on Saturday, Biden urged people to keep in mind Benedict’s appeal for international unity.
He prayed that his emphasis on the ministry of kindness would serve as an example for everyone.
In a New Year’s Eve vigil, Pope Francis expressed gratitude for Benedict’s “testimony of faith and prayer, especially in these closing years of retired life.” He said, “Of his sacrifices offered for the good of the church, only God knew.”
Despite a history of conflict between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, Vladimir Putin, a supporter of orthodoxy, referred to Benedict as a “defender of fundamental Christian ideals.”
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