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Death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was Pope from April 2005 to February 2013, died earlier today aged 95.

The President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland Bishop Hugh Gilbert has paid tribute to Pope EmeritusBenedict XVI who died earlier today (Saturday 31 December 2022). Commenting on the late Pope Emeritus, Bishop Gilbert said:

“With the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict, we lose one of the leading Catholic figures of the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of our own. By nature a shy and scholarly man and by profession a priest-theologian, he found himself drawn ever more into public life as Archbishop of Munich, as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome and finally as Pope - the first German since the end of the 2nd World War to attain world pre-eminence. His memorable State visit to the United Kingdom in 2010 began in Scotland. The gentle and prayerful intelligence revealed during that visit disarmed his critics. He was often misunderstood, even caricatured. Contrary to a widespread perception, however, he was a resolutely contemporary “confessor of the faith", deeply and critically engaged with modern thought, a lucid and unacademic preacher and pastorally sensitive. His bold, independent spirit surprised us all with his decision to resign while in office, the first Pope to do so for centuries. He once wrote: “my basic intention has been to expose the real core of the faith underneath the encrustations, and to give this core its true power and dynamism. This has been the constant direction of my life.” His full stature will surely emerge increasingly. May he rest in peace.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict was born Joseph Ratzinger on 16 April 1927 at Marktl am Inn, in Bavaria, near the Austrian border. His mother had worked as a cook; his father was a policeman whose criticisms of the Nazis led to the family moving from one small town to another.

On 29 June 1951, he and his brother Georg were ordained priests.

He taught theology at Freising and then in Bonn. From 1963 to 1966 he taught at Münster, and from 1966 to 1969 in Tübingen. In 1969 he took up a professorship at the University of Regensburg. In 1962, aged 35, he had accompanied Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne as a peritus, or theological adviser, to the Second Vatican Council, attending all four sessions.

Archbishop and Cardinal

In 1977, Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Munich and later that year he was made a cardinal. In 1981, Pope John Paul appointed Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the department of the curia responsible for promoting and defending the Catholic faith.

In the six years leading up to its publication in 1992, Cardinal Ratzinger headed the committee that drew up the Catechism of the Catholic Church, encouraged by Pope John Paul II. It aimed at being an organic synthesis of the essentials of Catholic doctrine, as regards both faith and morals, in the light of the Second Vatican Council.

Elected Pope

On 19 April 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger, aged 78, was elected Pope, and chose the name Benedict. He was the first German pope in almost 1,000 years. Pope Benedict wrote three encyclicals. Deus Caritas Est (God is Love, 2005) discussed the positive value of two Greek words for love, eros and agape, and of the word for friendship, philia. In Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope, 2007) he explored the relationship between the virtue of hope and Christian redemption. caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth, 2009) covered aspects of social justice, global development and respect for the environment. Another encyclical, Lumen Fide (The Light of Faith) was finished by his successor, Pope Francis.

On 11 February 2013 he announced that he would retire, aged 85 years he was the fourth oldest person ever to be Pope. He died aged 95 on Saturday 31 December 2022.

Text and Photo credit: Scottish Catholic Media Office


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