Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as announced by the Vatican, has died Saturday morning at 9:34 a.m. He was 95 years of age.
Outside of the Catholic Church, his surprising resignation (the first papal abdication since 1415) and subsequent life as the first “pope electus” in many centuries are the most prominent memories.
On April 16, 1927 in Bavaria, Benedict was born Joseph Ratzinger. After World War I, he was born in Germany to a Nazi regime that was growing in power.
His Roman Catholic family, which was harassed by the Nazi Party and punished for opposing state policies, influenced his desire to enrol in the church.
Ratzinger was inspired at an early age to enter the priesthood when he was given the task of presenting flowers to Archbishop Michael von Faulhaber in Munich. Ratzinger, five years old, declared that he would be a cardinal after observing the clergyman’s crimson robes.
In a 2005 interview with The New York Times, Georg, the brother of the cardinal, said that “it was the way the Cardinal looked, his bearing and the knickerbockers that he was wearing that made such a lasting impression on him.”
Ratzinger, at the age of 14 years old, was required by law to join the Hitler Youth along with all other German children his age. Ratzinger was angry at the organization and became furious when his cousin with Down’s syndrome was kidnapped and murdered by the government in their Aktion T4 campaign.
Ratzinger, despite his entry into seminary was drafted in 1943 into the anti-aircraft corp and later into regular military service during World War II. In April 1945, he deserted the German army.
According to a 1993 interview with Time Magazine, Benedict stated that he left the military because he saw the horrors of war. This included the death camps for Jews in Hungary.
He was taken prisoner by American forces and kept there for several months. After that, he returned to Germany and entered the seminary again with his brother Georg.
Ratzinger and his brother were ordained the same day in 1951. They received Holy Orders from the cardinal who inspired Benedict’s decision as a child to enter the priesthood.
His significant work in theology, Christology, and archbishop of Munich and Freising saw him elevated to that rank in May 1977. In June 1977, Pope Paul VI promoted him quickly to cardinal.
Cardinal Ratzinger was a Catholic icon because of his prolific writing and intense scholarship.
His bibliography, which includes volumes of works that span his early years in the priesthood and his papacy, includes encyclicals about morality, explorations into the life of Jesus and retrospective views on church history.
One of his greatest contributions was the founding of Communio, the theological journal that became one of the most influential journals of Catholic thought in his country.
While serving as a cardinal in the Catholic Church, he was also a leader in dealing with the problem of sexual abuse.
Cardinal Ratzinger persuaded the pope not to give authority to individual dioceses regarding abuse claims and to instead give jurisdiction the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Benedict, who was brought to the attention of John Paul II, oversaw the transformation of abuse cases. He also pushed for investigations into multiple persons later prosecuted or forced from office.
Critics of Benedict say that he failed in four cases of abuse while he was Archbishop of Munich. Benedict apologised for the failures of his archdiocesan leadership but strongly denied any cooperation in ignoring abuse up to his death.
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