Remembering Pope Benedict XVI


Justin Byers, Author

Pope Benedict XVI died at age 95.

Pope Benedict was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from April 19, 2005, until his resignation on February 28, 2013. He became the first Pope to resign in 600 years. Benedict’s election as pope occurred in the 2005 papal conclave that followed the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict chose to be known as “Pope emeritus.”

After a long career as a professor of theology at several German universities, he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977. In 1981, he was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman Curia. From 2002 until he was elected pope, he was also Dean of the College of Cardinals. Before becoming pope, he was “a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century”; he had an influence “second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions” as one of John Paul II’s closest confidants.

Benedict’s writings were prolific and generally defended traditional Catholic doctrine, values, and liturgy. He was originally a liberal theologian but adopted conservative views after 1968. During his papacy, Benedict XVI advocated a return to fundamental Christian values to counter the increased secularisation of many Western countries. He viewed relativism’s denial of objective truth, and the denial of moral truths in particular, as the central problem of the 21st century. He taught the importance of both the Catholic Church and an understanding of God’s redemptive love. Benedict also revived several traditions, including the Tridentine Mass.

On 11 February 2013, Benedict announced his resignation, citing a “lack of strength of mind and body” due to his advanced age. His resignation was the first by a pope since Gregory XII in 1415 and the first on a pope’s initiative since Celestine V in 1294. He was succeeded by Francis on 13 March 2013 and moved into the newly renovated Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican City for his retirement.

For admirers who dealt with him as a leader or read his work on theology and Scripture, Pope Benedict XVI was both an intellectual force and a warm blanket.

Pope Benedict XVI died on December 31st, 2022, and will lie in state for a few days before being buried in the Vatican Grottoes, underneath St. Peter’s Basilica.