Death of Pope Benedict – Tribune Online

ON January 5, 2023, Pope Francis presided over the requiem mass of Pope Benedict XVI. in Vatican City, an event attended by tens of thousands of people. Pope Benedict XVI was subsequently buried in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, where the tomb of Pope John Paul II, the predecessor of Benedict XVI, had previously been. Pope Benedict XVI died on December 31, 2022 at his residence in the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI, originally named Joseph Alois Ratzinger, was born on April 16, 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Germany. His father was a policeman and his mother a hotel chef, both staunch Catholics hostile to the Nazi regime. Although Ratzinger entered the seminary in 1939, he was forcibly drafted into the Hitler Youth in 1941 and drafted into military service in 1943. After the war he continued his education in the seminary and was ordained in June 1951. In 1953 he received his doctorate in theology from the University of Munich. He taught dogma and theology at several universities in Germany and became vice president of the University of Regensburg in the 1970s. His theological work attracted the attention of the then Archbishop of Cologne, Joseph Frings. Frings asked Ratzinger to serve as his expert assistant at the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). In March 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed Ratzinger Archbishop of Munich and Freising and three months later bestowed upon him the cardinal hat. On November 25, 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed him Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post he held from 1978 to 2005. He was one of Pope John Paul II’s closest advisers.

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He was elected Bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church in 2005 and at the age of 78 became the oldest newly elected Pope since Clement XII. (1730-40). Benedict XVI became Pope. in the footsteps of John Paul II in terms of dialogue with other faiths such as Islam and Judaism, and with the Christian Churches. He also attempted to revitalize the Catholic Church in Europe, preserving the Church’s orthodoxy on issues of sexuality, priestly celibacy, and church organization. Benedict visited several countries in the early years of his papacy. During these visits he met the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to improve relations between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Churches. He visited Brazil, where he canonized Father Antonio Galvao (1739–1822), the first Brazilian-born saint.

He also reversed John Paul II’s reform of the papal election process and restored traditional practice when he explained that the election of a new pope required a two-thirds majority of the cardinals attending the conclave. He issued new guidelines that allowed greater use of the Latin Mass – the order of the Mass used before the reforms of Vatican II. In 2005 and 2007 he published two encyclicals: Deus caritas est (God is love) and Spe salvi (Saved by hope). In 2007, he endorsed the decisions of the International Theological Commission, a Vatican advisory body, that the traditional teaching of limbo was “unduly restrictive” and that unbaptized infants could be saved. In 2008 he spoke at the first Catholic-Muslim Forum, a conference of Catholic theologians and Islamic scholars organized by the Vatican to promote understanding between the two religions.

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Although he had enjoyed a distinguished career as a theologian and as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prior to his election as pope, his papacy has faced several challenges, including a decline in vocations and church attendance, and divisive debates over the direction of the church. He had to deal with the aftermath of the scandal that began in the late 1990s about the church’s handling of numerous cases of sexual abuse by priests. In 2008, during his visit to the United States, Pope Benedict spoke out against sexual abuse by clergy and addressed the United Nations. In 2010, allegations of sexual and physical abuse by pastors and in parish schools in Germany, Ireland and the United States rocked the Church. His role in the cases in Germany was closely scrutinized by the media. In a pastoral letter, he blamed the bishops concerned for a leadership failure, while the Vatican accused Benedict, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of having pursued a policy of cover-up as “false and slanderous” cases of sexual abuse.

He was the first pope since Gregory XII. resigned in 1415 when on February 28, 2013 he announced his resignation for reasons of age and health and assumed the title of Pope Emeritus. His resignation sparked speculation as to whether this precedent would serve to normalize future popes’ resignations. The subsequent election of Pope Francis brought the papacy into uncharted territory, with two popes residing in Vatican City. A leader who resigns is someone who puts the organization above themselves and prioritizes the interests of the organization and the constituencies it serves. Pope Benedict demonstrated deep reverence for the religious symbolism of the papacy but not for its secular powers. This is a very important lesson for politicians in Africa who continue to seek power or office when it is obvious that their age and health dictate otherwise. It was with great humility that he resigned when he realized he was no longer fit for the post. He knew when to move on so the organization could thrive.

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