Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Dies at 95
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died at the Vatican on December 31, 2022. He was 95.
Benedict was known as “God’s Rottweiler,” due to his hardline conservative Catholicism. He was the 265th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, the first German pope in several centuries, and the oldest person elected to the position since Clement XII in 1730.
Benedict was born as Joseph Ratzinger, in Marktl am Inn, Germany, on April 16, 1927. He entered into the seminary at age 12. At age 14 he joined Hitler’s Nazi youth movement — membership was mandatory at the time. He was drafted but never saw combat in World War II.
At age 18, Ratzinger was ordained as a priest. He was eventually chosen to serve as archbishop of Munich and Freising. In 1977, he was elevated to Cardinal, and he became dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002.
Ratzinger ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) at the Vatican for 24 years, starting in 1981. That department handled priest sex abuse allegations. Ratzinger also served as chief theological adviser to Pope John Paul II.
Following the death of John Paul in 2005, Ratzinger was elected to head the Church, at which time he chose the name Benedict. In his first homily, he said, “Now, at this moment, weak servant of God that I am, I must assume this enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity. How can I do this? How will I be able to do it? All of you, my dear friends, have just invoked the entire host of Saints, represented by some of the great names in the history of God’s dealings with mankind. In this way, I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone.”
Pope Benedict reigned for only eight years, stepping down in 2013. He was the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign rather than retain the office for life.
Before and after Benedict was elected pope, some accused him of mishandling cases of priest sex abuse, participating in cover-ups, or, at best, being slow to react as information surfaced. However, others defended his efforts. He was never personally accused of sexual abuse.
Benedict rarely appeared in public following his retirement, but he continued to influence Church doctrine. He recently said, “I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died at his home in the Vatican. His body will lie in state in St. Peter’s Basilica; then he will be buried in the Vatican Grottoes below the basilica.
Learn more about Pope Benedict XVI in his own words.
Pope Benedict XVI. “HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI.” The Vatican, April 24, 2005, https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050424_inizio-pontificato.html
Guy, Jack, et al. “Former Pope Benedict XVI dies in Vatican monastery aged 95.” CNN, December 31, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/31/europe/pope-benedict-xvi-death-intl/index.html
Natanson, Phoebe. “Pope Benedict XVI has died at the age of 95.” ABC News, December 31, 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/International/pope-benedict-xvi-died-age-95/story?id=17967239
Siemaszko, Corky. “Benedict’s brief papacy was marred by the priest sex abuse scandal.” NBC News, December 31, 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/pope-benedict-church-priest-sex-abuse-scandal-rcna63525
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