Following the announcement of the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Saturday at the age of 95, here is a look at his life and times.
Pope Benedict XVI, was born at Marktl am Inn, Diocese of Passau (Germany) on 16 April 1927 (Holy Saturday) and was baptised on the same day.
His father, a Police Commissioner, belonged to an old family of farmers from Lower Bavaria of modest economic resources. His mother was the daughter of artisans from Rimsting on the shore of Lake Chiem. Before marrying, she worked as a cook in a number of hotels.
His youthful years were not easy. His faith and the education received at home prepared him for the harsh experience of those years during which the Nazi regime pursued a hostile attitude towards the Catholic Church. The young Joseph saw how some Nazis beat the Parish Priest before the celebration of Mass.
It was precisely during that complex situation that he discovered the beauty and truth of faith in Christ; fundamental for this was his family’s attitude, who always gave a clear witness of goodness and hope, rooted in a convinced attachment to the Church.
From 1946 to 1951, he studied philosophy and theology in the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and at the University of Munich.
In 1953, he obtained his doctorate in theology with a thesis entitled “People and House of God in St Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church”.
From 1962 to 1965, he made a notable contribution to Vatican II as an “expert”, being present at the Council as theological consultant of Cardinal Joseph Frings, Archbishop of Cologne.
His intense scientific activity led him to important positions at the service of the German Bishops’ Conference and the International Theological Commission.
Among his many publications, special mention should be made of his Introduction to Christianity, a compilation of University lectures on the Apostolic Creed, published in 1968; and Dogma and Preaching (1973), an anthology of essays, sermons and reflections dedicated to pastoral arguments.
His address to the Catholic Academy of Bavaria on “Why I am still in the Church” had a wide resonance; in it he stated with his usual clarity: “one can only be a Christian in the Church,not beside the Church”.
His many publications are spread out over a number of years and constitute a point of reference for many people, especially for those interested in entering deeper into the study of theology. In 1985, he published his interview-book on the situation of the faith (The Ratzinger Report) and in 1996 Salt of the Earth. On the occasion of his 70th birthday the volume At the School of Truth was published, containing articles by several authors on different aspects of his personality and production.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, also known as Pope Benedict XVI was elected on 19 April 2005 as the 265th Pope. He was the oldest person to be elected Pope since 1730, and had been a Cardinal for a longer period of time than any Pope since 1724.
On 11th of February 2013, during the Ordinary Public Consistory for the Vote on several Causes for Canonization, Benedict announced his decision to resign from the Petrine ministry with these words:
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter.”
After his resignation took effect, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lived within the Vatican in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery until his death.