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Pope Benedict XVI
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI (born Joseph Alois Ratzinger on April 16, 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Germany; officially styled in Latin as Benedictus PP. XVI), was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on April 19, 2005. By virtue of holding the office of Pope he is also Sovereign (head of state) of the Vatican City State and of the Holy See. He will be formally installed as the pontiff during the Mass of Papal Installation which will be attended by a number of world leaders on April 24, 2005, though he officially became Pope and Bishop of Rome the moment he accepted his election in the conclave.
Benedict is, at the age of 78, the oldest person since Pope Clement XII in 1730 to begin a papacy after election at a papal conclave, and is the first German pontiff since Adrian VI (1522–1523).1 Benedict XVI is the eighth German pope; the first was Gregory V (996–999). The last Benedict, Benedict XV, was an Italian who served as pontiff from 1914 to 1922 and reigned during World War I.
Ratzinger had a distinguished career as a university theologian before he became Archbishop of Munich, and he was subsequently made a Cardinal by Pope Paul VI in the consistory of June 27, 1977. He was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and was made a Cardinal Bishop of Title of episcopal see of the Suburbicarian Church of Velletri-Segni on April 5, 1993. In 1998, he was elected Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals; later, he was elected Dean of the College of Cardinals (with that, also becoming titular bishop of the Suburbicarian Church of Ostia (November 30,2002)). He was already one of the most influential men in the Vatican and a close associate of the late John Paul II before he became pope. He also presided over the funeral of John Paul II and the 2005 conclave that elected him. While he was the public face of the church in much of the sede vacante, he actually ranked below the Cardinal Camerlengo in both rank and authority during that time.
Benedict speaks several languages, including German, Spanish, Italian, English, and ecclesiastical Latin. He is also fluent in French and has been an associate member of the French Académie des sciences morales et politiques since 1992. He plays piano with a preference for Mozart and Beethoven.
Benedict accepts the traditional Catholic doctrines which state that intercourse within heterosexual marriage is the only morally acceptable form of human sexual behavior, and that contraception frustrates the intention of the act. He also holds that abortion, euthanasia, and homosexual sex are intrinsically evil acts. Consequently, theological conservatives have hailed his elevation, while more liberal Catholics have complained that his election does not represent their vision.
Joseph Alois Ratzinger was born in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, the second son and youngest child of Joseph Ratzinger, Sr. and his wife, the former Maria Riger. His father was a police officer who served in both the Bavarian State Police (Landespolizei) and the national Order Police (Ordnungspolizei), retiring in 1937 to the town of Traunstein. The Sunday Times of London described the elder Ratzinger as "an anti-Nazi whose attempts to rein in Hitler’s brownshirts forced the family to move several times" . The Pope's mother reportedly worked as a barmaid. He has two elder siblings: Georg Ratzinger, who also became a priest as well as a musician and medievalist and is still living, and Maria Ratzinger , who is deceased.
According to his cousin Erika Kopp, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, Ratzinger had no desire from childhood to be anything other than a priest. When he was six, she says, he announced that he was going to be a bishop . When Ratzinger turned 14 in 1941, he was drafted into the Hitler Youth, membership of which was legally required after 1938. National Catholic Reporter correspondent and biographer John Allen writes that Ratzinger was an unenthusiastic member who refused to attend meetings. Ratzinger has mentioned that a Nazi mathematics professor arranged reduced tuition payments for him at seminary. While this normally required documentation of attendance at Hitler Youth activities, according to Ratzinger, his professor arranged that the young seminary student did not need to attend those gatherings to receive a scholarship.
In 1943, when he was 16, Ratzinger was drafted with many of his classmates into the Flak (anti-aircraft corps). They were posted first to Ludwigsfeld, north of Munich, as part of a detachment responsible for guarding a BMW aircraft engine plant ***. Next they were sent to Unterföhring , northwest of Munich, and briefly to Innsbruck. From Innsbruck their unit went to Gilching to protect the jet fighter base and to attack Allied bombers as they massed to begin their runs towards Munich. At Gilching, Ratzinger served in telephone communications.
On September 10, 1944, his class was released from the Corps. Returning home, Ratzinger had already received a new draft notice for the Reichsarbeitdienst. He was posted to the Hungarian border area of Austria which had been annexed by Germany in the Anschluss of 1938. Here he was trained in the "cult of the spade" and upon the surrender of Hungary to Russia was put to work setting up anti-tank defences in preparation for the expected Red Army offensive. On November 20, his unit was released from service.
Ratzinger again returned home. After three weeks passed, he was drafted into the army at Munich and assigned to the infantry barracks in the center of Traunstein, the city near which his family lived. After basic infantry training, his unit was sent to various posts around the city. They were never sent to the front.
In late April or early May, days or weeks before the German surrender, Ratzinger deserted after two years of service in the German army. He left the city of Traunstein and returned to his village on the outskirts. Desertion was widespread during the last weeks of the war, even though punishable by death; executions, frequently extrajudicial, continued to the end. In the days preceding imminent German defeat, however, many deserted for fear of the more salient Allied threat. Diminished morale, and the greatly diminished risk of execution from a preoccupied German military, also contributed notably to pervasive desertion. He was briefly interned in an open air prisoner of war camp near Ulm and was released on June 19, 1945.
Most information about Ratzinger's wartime activities is based on his own memoirs and accounts from his brother, Georg.
Early church career
After he was repatriated, he and his brother Georg entered a Catholic seminary. On June 29, 1951, they were ordained by Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich. His dissertation (1953) was on Saint Augustine entitled "The People and the House of God in Augustine's Doctrine of the Church", and his Habilitationsschrift (a post-doctoral dissertation) was on Saint Bonaventure completed in 1957 and he became a professor of Freising college in 1958.
Ratzinger was a professor at the University of Bonn from 1959 until 1963, when he moved to the University of Münster. During his theological career, Ratzinger has taken both liberal and conservative sides. In 1966, he took a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen, where he was a colleague of Hans Küng but was confirmed in his traditionalist views by the liberal atmosphere of Tübingen and the Marxist leanings of the student movement of the 1960s. Ratzinger was a liberal theological adviser at the Second Vatican Council but became more conservative after the 1968 student movement prompted him to defend the faith against secularism. In 1969 he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg.
At the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), Ratzinger served as a peritus or chief theological expert to Josef Cardinal Frings of Cologne, Germany, and has continued to defend the council, including Nostra Aetate, the document on respect of other religions and the declaration of the right to religious freedom. He was viewed during the time of the council as a liberal. As the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger most clearly spelled out the Catholic Church's position on other religions in the document Dominus Iesus which also talks about the proper way to engage in ecumenical dialogue.
Archbishop and cardinal
In 1972, he founded the theological journal Communio (link) with Hans Urs von Balthasar , Henri de Lubac , Walter Cardinal Kasper and others. Communio, now published in seventeen editions (German, English, Spanish and many others), has become one of the most important journals of Catholic thought. He remains one of the journal's most prolific contributors.
In March 1977 Ratzinger was named archbishop of Munich and Freising. According to his autobiography, Milestones, he took as his episcopal motto Cooperatores Veritatis, co-workers of the Truth, from 3 John 8. This motto signifies the interweaving of truth and love, of personal faith and the catholicity of the Church, as well as the interrelationship of ministers and faithful, who, in their different ways, share together the burden and grace of the Gospel.
In the consistory of June 1977 he was named a cardinal by Pope Paul VI. At the time of the 2005 Conclave, he was one of only 14 remaining cardinals appointed by Paul VI, and one of only three of those under the age of 80 and thus eligible to participate in that conclave.
On November 25, 1981 Pope John Paul II named Ratzinger prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition, which was renamed in 1908 by Pope Pius X. He resigned the Munich archdiocese in early 1982, became cardinal-bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals in 1998, and was elected dean in 2002. In office, Ratzinger usually took traditional views on topics such as birth control and inter-religious dialogue. As Prefect, Ratzinger wrote a 1986 letter to bishops that identified homosexuality as a "tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil" and "an objective disorder."
Because of his conservative opinions on most matters of faith and his German origins, Ratzinger earned the nickname of "Panzer Cardinal." Pope Benedict XVI is seen to have prominent black rings beneath both of his eyes. These have the appearance of being haematomas however this is unlikely. The most likely reason for these is a lack of sleep.
Election to the papacy
On January 2, 2005, TIME magazine quoted unnamed Vatican sources as saying that Ratzinger was a frontrunner to succeed John Paul II should the pope die or become too ill to continue as Pontiff. On the death of John Paul II, the Financial Times gave the odds of Ratzinger becoming pope as 7–1, the lead position, but close to his rivals on the liberal wing of the church.
- There can be little doubt that his courageous promotion of orthodox Catholic teaching has earned him the respect of his fellow cardinals throughout the world. He is patently holy, highly intelligent and sees clearly what is at stake. Indeed, for those who blame the decline of Catholic practice in the developed world precisely on the propensity of many European bishops to hide their heads in the sand, a pope who confronts it may be just what is required. Ratzinger is no longer young — he is 78 years old: but Angelo Roncalli was the same age when he became pope as John XXIII. He turned the Church upside-down by calling the Second Vatican Council and was perhaps the best-loved pontiff of modern times. As Jeff Israely, the correspondent of Time, was told by a Vatican insider last month, "The Ratzinger solution is definitely on." (Angelo Roncalli was 76, not 78.)
Cardinal Ratzinger had repeatedly stated he would like to retire to a Bavarian village and dedicate himself to writing books, but more recently, he told friends he was ready to "accept any charge God placed on him." After the death of John Paul II on April 2, 2005 Ratzinger ceased functioning as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As he is now pope, it will be up to him to decide who will follow him in the role of prefect.
On April 19, 2005 Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II on the second day of the papal conclave after four ballots. Coincidentally, April 19 is the feast of St. Leo IX, a German pope and saint.
Before his first appearance at the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica after becoming pope, he was announced by the Cardinal Medina Estévez, protodeacon of the College of Cardinals with the words:
- Fratelli e sorelle carissimi; queridisimos hermanos y hermanas; bien chers frères et soeurs; liebe Brüder und Schwestern; dear brothers and sisters:
- Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum.
- Habemus Papam:
- Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
- Dominum Josephum
- Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger
- qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedicti Decimi Sexti
Which translates to:
- Dear brothers and sisters,
- I announce to you a great joy:
- We have a Pope!
- The most Eminent and Reverend Lord,
- the Lord Joseph
- Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church Ratzinger,
- who takes to himself the name of Benedict the Sixteenth.
At the balcony, Pope Benedict XVI's first words to the crowd, before he gave the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing, were, in Italian:
- Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord.
- The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.
- Let us move forward in the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.
In accordance with pre-existing requirements, arrangements for the papal funeral were brought about even before Benedict's official installation, underlining in the minds of some the pontiff's advanced age.
Choice of name
The choice of the name Benedict (Latin "the blessed") is significant. The new Pope's birthday is on 16 April and that day is the feast of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre (26 March, 1748 – 16 April, 1783), also known as the Holy Pilgrim. In addition the previous Pope Benedict XV (1914 to 1922) was seen as a conciliator who calmed the disputes between modernist and traditionalist factions with the Church, and the adoption of the name Benedict has been seen as a sign that Benedict XVI has similar goals. Additionally, Der Spiegel reports on an interview with Cardinal Meisner, usually regarded as close to Ratzinger, stating that he chose Benedict because of Benedict XV who "did much for peace in the world". 
Theology professor Susan Roll of the University of Ottawa speculates in the Globe and Mail, however, that the new Pope's name may be taken from St. Benedict, who founded the Benedictine Order and is credited by Catholics for preserving Christian civilization during the Great migration in the Early Middle Ages. St. Benedict is also one of the patron saints of Europe. Ratzinger has always been concerned that Europe should do its utmost not to lose its Christian heritage. Some have speculated that the choice of the name of Europe's patron signals an intention to reclaim Europe for Christ.
However, John Allen, the new pope's biographer and a longtime Vatican observer, told CNN on April 20, 2005, that the choice of name also appears to be a purposeful allusion to the fact that the previous holder of the name Benedict was shortlived in office. Ratzinger's brother has stated that he hoped that his aged sibling would not be elected to the papacy due to the pressures of the office and the fact that in 1991, Cardinal Ratzinger suffered a brain hemorrhage. "At age 78 it's not good to take on such a job which challenges the entire person and the physical and mental existence," Georg Ratzinger, then 81 years of age, said in an article published in the Guardian on April 20, 2005. "At an age when you approach 80 it's no longer guaranteed that one is able to work and get up the next day." Given this history, John Allen noted that the pope likely has "a very keen sense that this may not be a very long pontificate and there's an awful lot to do."
Allen's observation is further corroborated by Ratzinger's comments to cardinals just after his election, explaining his name. Chicago's Cardinal Francis George said that Ratzinger told the cardinals, "I too hope in this short reign to be a man of peace." (Emphasis added.)
Some view the Pope's choice of name as a fulfillment of the Prophecy of the Popes of St. Malachy, the authenticity of whose predictions is uncertain. The name "Benedict" can be associated with the Benedictines, otherwise known as Olivetans, which would seem to match the prophesied Gloria Olivae, or "Glory of the Olive."
Pope Benedict XVI has taken positions similar to his predecessor, John Paul II, and has been a staunch defender of existing Catholic doctrine. He has made it clear that he intends to maintain traditions, and not give in to modern pressures to change fundamental Church dogma and teaching on such issues as birth control, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Benedict XVI maintains the Church's opposition to moral relativism, which he defines broadly as producing views ranging "from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth."
Benedict XVI's theology places much emphasis on the role of the institutions of the Catholic Church as the instrument by which God's message manifests itself on Earth. As such, he does not view the search for moral truth as a dialectic and incremental process, and this view of the role of the Church is one that tends to resist external social trends rather than submitting to them. Additionally, he played an important role in centralizing the church under John Paul II and is expected to accelerate the process as Pope.
In a pre-conclave mass in St. Peter's Basilica, he warned, "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one's own ego and one's own desires."
Benedict XVI has strongly opposed liberation theology but at the same time been a strong supporter of charismatic Catholicism, and some of his theological work has been devoted to stating the difference between the two. Furthermore, he has spoken positively about the Vatican II council and has shown no evidence that he intends to reverse or limit the decisions of that council.
Benedict XVI is a theologian in a modern orthodox vein. His theology aims at a synthesis of Thomism, philosophical personalism (with such proponents as Martin Buber, John Paul II — in his case, however, tempered by phenomenology, and, more recently, Leon Kass) and the 'nouvelle théologie ' of Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthazar . This is a sharp contrast with the school of thought represented by Karl Rahner, Hans Küng, and Edward Schillebeeckx .
Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was a well-known and quite controversial figure in the Catholic Church, for a number of outspoken pronouncements.
Other controversial statements included a 1987 statement that Jewish history and scripture reach fulfillment only in Christ – a position critics denounced as "theological anti-Semitism," although it is very much in the general tradition of Christian views of the Old Testament and the Jews. Other religious groups took offense to a 2000 document in which he argued that, "Only in the Catholic Church is there eternal salvation."  However, groups such as the World Jewish Congress commended his election as Pope as "welcome" and extolled his "great sensitivity".  Though his advent was congratulated by Buddhist leaders around the world, critics remembered that in March 1997 Cardinal Ratzinger called Buddhism an "auto-erotic" spirituality that threatened the Catholic Church.
His defenders point out that it is hardly surprising that a leader within the Catholic Church would forcefully and explicit argue in favor of the superiority of Catholicism over other religions, as this is a central tenet of Catholic theology. If this is a just criticism the whole Roman Catholic Church should be criticized. They also point out that these statements do not represent intolerence or an unwillingliness to engage in dialogue with other faiths, in that Benedict has been very active in promoting such discussions.Specifically, they argue that Benedict has been instrumental at encouraging reconciliation with Lutherans.
Gay rights advocates widely criticized his 1986 letter to the Bishops of the church, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons , in which he stated that homosexuality is a “strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” In an earlier letter dated September 30, 1985, Ratzinger reprimanded Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen for his liberal views on women, gays, and doctrinal issues, stating, "The Archdiocese should withdraw all support from any group, which does not unequivocally accept the teaching of the Magisterium concerning the intrinsic evil of homosexual activity." Archbishop Hunthausen was temporarily relieved of his authority .
At the same time, his defenders point out that Ratzinger was simply stating the teaching of the Catholic Church, and his outspokeness on this issue has gained him support among conservative Catholics.
Use of Condoms to Prevent AIDS
Cardinal Ratzinger again sparked controversy when, in 1988, he stated in a letter about condom use that using condoms not as a contraceptive but to prevent HIV/AIDS is "a kind of behavior which would result in at least the facilitation of evil" – not merely its toleration. For the full text of the letter, see: The Many Faces of AIDS . Critics fear this type of teaching can increase the frequency of Unsafe sex and increase HIV/AIDS infection, while Ratzinger's supporters argued that it was a good thing that he made a clear statement on this issue.
Church sex abuse scandal
Regarding the scandal of sexual abuse by priests in the United States, he was seen by critics as indifferent to the abuse. In 2002 he told Catholic News Service that "less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type."  Opponents saw this as ignoring the crimes committed by those who did abuse; others saw it as merely pointing out that this should not taint other priests who live respectable lives. His Good Friday reflections in 2005 were interpreted as strongly condemning and regretting the abuse scandals, which largely put to rest the speculation of indifference.
In the United States, during the 2004 presidential campaign, Cardinal Ratzinger expressed the view that voters would be "cooperating in evil" if they voted for a political candidate on the basis of support for legalized abortion or euthanasia. He went on to state that voting for these candidates for other reasons (ie. voting in spite of, rather than because of, their views on these abortion/euthanasia) was justifiable. Ratzinger caused further controversy after condoning the denial of Holy Communion to politicians who were outspoken in support of legalized abortion. However, he did add that bishops should only withhold communion after meeting with, teaching and warning politicians first.
In The Spirit of the Liturgy in 2000, Ratzinger attacked Rock and Roll as "the expression of elemental passions" and described rock concerts as becoming "a form of worship ... in opposition to Christian worship." However, he is a great lover of classical and folk music.
Note 1: Some historians dispute the characterization of Adrian VI as German because he was from Utrecht, which was part of the Holy Roman Empire in his time, but the city is now in the Netherlands. The most recent pope to come from what is now Germany was Victor II. Benedict XVI is the third pope to hail from within the boundaries of modern Germany.
- Allen, John L.: Cardinal Ratzinger: the Vatican's enforcer of the faith. – New York: Continuum, 2000
- Wagner, Karl: Kardinal Ratzinger: der Erzbischof in München und Freising in Wort und Bild. – München : Pfeiffer, 1977
See the list of Works of Pope Benedict XVI for all the books the Pope authored.
- Dominus Iesus
- Prophecy of the Popes
- List of popes and antipopes known as Pope Benedict
- On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Later Pope Benedict XVI), 1986
- On "The Many Faces of AIDS" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Later Pope Benedict XVI), 1988
External links and references
- POPE BENEDICT XVI: PROFILE
- Vatican: the Holy See – Vatican web site
-  Vatican web page about election
- Pope Benedict XVI
- The Vatican’s Enforcer – The National Catholic Reporter's 1999 Cover Story on the history of then Cardinal Ratzinger
- Analysis: Ratzinger in the ascendance
- The Pope Blog: Pope Benedict XVI
- Amici di Joseph Ratzinger
- Communio magazine, founded by Ratzinger and others. Contains recent articles by him.
- Dossier on Benedict XVI
- Open Directory Project – Benedict XVI directory category
- Biography and resources about Ratzinger
- Pope News Roundup
- The Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club
- World War II years
- Windows Media video from Vatican City announcing Habemus Papam (We have a Pope!)
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