Pope Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus PP. XVI; Italian: Benedetto XVI; German: Benedikt XVI; born Joseph Alois Ratzinger on 16 April 1927) is the 265th and reigning Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the spiritual head of the Roman Catholic Church and, as such, Sovereign of the Vatican City State. He was elected on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005, and took possession of his cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on 7 May 2005. Pope Benedict XVI has both German and Vatican citizenship. He succeeded Pope John Paul II. Benedict XVI is a respected Roman Catholic theologian and a prolific bestselling author, a defender of traditional Catholic doctrine and values. He served as a professor at Pope Benedict XVI/German universities affiliated with Pope Benedict XVI and was a theological consultant at the Second Vatican Council before becoming Archbishop of Munich and Freising and later a cardinal. At the time of his election as Pope, Benedict had been Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (curial heads lose their positions upon the death of a pope) and was Dean of the College of Cardinals.
During his papacy, Benedict XVI has emphasized what he sees as a need for Europe to return to fundamental Christian values in response to increasing de-Christianisation and secularisation in many developed countries. For this reason, he proclaims relativism's denial of objective truth—and more particularly, the denial of moral truths—as the central problem of the 21st century. He teaches the importance for the Catholic Church and for humanity of contemplating God's salvific love and has reaffirmed the "importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work."
Pope Benedict was also the founder and patron of the Ratzinger Foundation, a charitable organisation, which makes money from the sale of books and essays written by the Pope, in order to fund scholarships and bursaries for students across the world.
Benedict XVI was elected Pope at the age of 78. He is the oldest person to have been elected Pope since Pope Clement XII (1730–40). He had served longer as a cardinal than any Pope since Benedict XIII (1724–30). He is the ninth German Pope, the eighth having been the Dutch-German Pope Adrian VI (1522–23) from Utrecht. The last Pope named Benedict was Benedict XV, an Italian who reigned from 1914 to 1922, during World War I (1914–18).
Born in 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Germany, Ratzinger had a distinguished career as a university theologian before being appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising by Pope Paul VI (1963–78). Shortly afterwards, he was made a cardinal in the consistory of 27 June 1977. He was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and was also assigned the honorific title of the cardinal bishop of Velletri-Segni on 5 April 1993. In 1998, he was elected sub-dean of the College of Cardinals. And on 30 November 2002, he was elected dean, taking, as is customary, the title of Cardinal bishop of the suburbicarian diocese of Ostia. He was the first Dean of the College elected Pope since Paul IV (1555–59) and the first cardinal bishop elected Pope since Pius VIII (1829–30).
Even before becoming Pope, Ratzinger was one of the most influential men in the Roman Curia, and was a close associate of John Paul II. As Dean of the College of Cardinals, he presided over the funeral of John Paul II and over the Mass immediately preceding the 2005 conclave in which he was elected. During the service, he called on the assembled cardinals to hold fast to the doctrine of the faith. He was the public face of the church in the sede vacante period, although, technically, he ranked below the camerlengo in administrative authority during that time. Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI maintains the traditional Catholic doctrines on artificial birth control, abortion and homosexuality.
As well as his native German, Benedict XVI fluently speaks Italian, French, English and Latin, and has a knowledge of Portuguese. He can read Ancient Greek and biblical Hebrew. He has stated that his first foreign language is French. He is a member of a large number of academies, such as the French Académie des sciences morales et politiques. He plays the piano and has a preference for Mozart and Bach.
The pope's relatives agree that his priestly vocation was apparent from boyhood. At the age of five, Ratzinger was in a group of children who welcomed the visiting Cardinal Archbishop of Munich with flowers. Struck by the Cardinal's distinctive garb, he later announced the very same day that he wanted to be a cardinal.
Following his fourteenth birthday in 1941, Ratzinger was enrolled in the Hitler Youth—as membership was required for all 14-year old German boys after December 1939—but was an unenthusiastic member and refused to attend meetings. His father was a bitter enemy of Nazism, believing it conflicted with the Catholic faith, according to biographer John L. Allen, Jr. In 1941, one of Ratzinger's cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was killed by the Nazi regime in its campaign of eugenics. In 1943 while still in seminary, he was drafted at age 16 into the German anti-aircraft corps. Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry, but a subsequent illness precluded him from the usual rigours of military duty. As the Allied front drew closer to his post in 1945, he deserted back to his family's home in Traunstein after his unit had ceased to exist, just as American troops established their headquarters in the Ratzinger household. As a German soldier, he was put in a POW camp but was released a few months later at the end of the War in summer 1945. He reentered the seminary, along with his brother Georg, in November of that year.
Following repatriation in 1945, the two brothers entered Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein, later studying at the Ducal Georgianum (Herzogliches Georgianum) of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. They were both ordained in Freising on 29 June 1951 by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber of Munich. Joseph Ratzinger's dissertation (1953) was on St. Augustine and was entitled "The People and the House of God in Augustine's Doctrine of the Church". His Habilitation (which qualified him for a professorship) was on Bonaventure. It was completed in 1957 and he became a professor of Freising College in 1958.
Ratzinger became a professor at the University of Bonn in 1959; his inaugural lecture was on "The God of Faith and the God of Philosophy." In 1963, he moved to the University of Münster, where his inaugural lecture was given in a packed lecture hall, as he was already well known as a theologian.
During this period, Ratzinger participated in the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). Ratzinger served as a peritus (theological consultant) to Josef Cardinal Frings of Cologne. He was viewed during the time of the Council as a reformer, cooperating with radical Modernist theologians like Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx. Ratzinger became an admirer of Karl Rahner, a well-known academic theologian of the Nouvelle Théologie and a proponent of church reform.
In 1966, Joseph Ratzinger was appointed to a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen, where he was a colleague of Hans Küng. In his 1968 book Introduction to Christianity, he wrote that the pope has a duty to hear differing voices within the Church before making a decision, and he downplayed the centrality of the papacy. He also wrote that the Church of the time was too centralized, rule-bound and overly controlled from Rome . During this time, he distanced himself from the atmosphere of Tübingen and the Marxist leanings of the student movement of the 1960s that quickly radicalized, in the years 1967 and 1968, culminating in a series of disturbances and riots in April and May 1968. Ratzinger came increasingly to see these and associated developments (such as decreasing respect for authority among his students) as connected to a departure from traditional Catholic teachings. Despite his reformist bent, his views increasingly came to contrast with the liberal ideas gaining currency in theological circles.
Some voices, among them Hans Küng, deem this a turn towards Conservatism, while Ratzinger himself said in a 1993 interview, "I see no break in my views as a theologian [over the years]". Ratzinger has continued to defend the Council against criticism, including Nostra Aetate, the document on respect of other religions, ecumenism and the declaration of the right to freedom of religion. (Later, as the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger most clearly spelled out the Catholic Church's position on other religions in the 2000 document Dominus Iesus which also talks about the Roman Catholic way to engage in ecumenical dialogue.)
During his years at Tübingen University, Ratzinger publicized articles in the reformist theological journal Concilium, though he increasingly chose less reformist themes than other contributors to the magazine such as Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx.
In 1969, he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg. He founded the theological journal Communio, with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Walter Kasper and others, in 1972. Communio, now published in seventeen languages, including German, English and Spanish, has become a prominent journal of contemporary Catholic theological thought. Until his election as Pope, he remained one of the journal's most prolific contributors.
On 24 March 1977, Ratzinger was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising. He took as his episcopal motto Cooperatores Veritatis (Co-workers of the Truth) from 3 John 8, a choice he comments upon in his autobiographical work, Milestones. In the consistory of the following 27 June, he was named Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino by Pope Paul VI. By the time of the 2005 Conclave, he was one of only fourteen remaining cardinals appointed by Paul VI, and one of only three of those under the age of 80. Of these, only he and William Wakefield Baum took part in the conclave.
On 25 November 1981, Pope John Paul II named Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office, the historical Inquisition. Consequently, he resigned his post at Munich in early 1982. He was promoted within the College of Cardinals to become Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993, was made the College's vice-dean in 1998 and dean in 2002.
In office, Ratzinger fulfilled his institutional role, defending and reaffirming Catholic doctrine, including teaching on topics such as birth control, homosexuality, and inter-religious dialogue. During his period in office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took disciplinary measures against some outspoken liberation theologians in Latin America, condemning liberation theology twice (in 1984 and 1986), accusing it of Marxist tendencies and of inciting hate and violence. Leonardo Boff, for example, was suspended, while others were censured. Other issues also prompted condemnations or revocations of rights to teach: for instance, some posthumous writings of Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello were the subject of a notification. Ratzinger and the Congregation viewed many of them, particularly the later works, as having an element of religious indifferentism (i.e., Christ was "one master alongside others").
The Congregation is best known for its authority over the teaching of Church doctrine, but it also has jurisdiction over other matters, including cases involving the seal of the confessional, clerical sexual misconduct and other matters, in its function as what amounts to a court. In his capacity as Prefect, Ratzinger's 2001 letter “Crimen Sollicitationis” which clarified the confidentiality of internal Church investigations into accusations made against priests of certain crimes, including sexual abuse, became a target of controversy during the sex abuse scandal. While bishops hold the secrecy pertained only internally, and did not preclude investigation by civil law enforcement, the letter was often seen as promoting a coverup.
On 12 March 1983 Ratzinger as prefect and cardinal notified the lay faithful and the clergy that archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc had incurred the excommunication latae sententiae for illicit episcopal consecrations without the apostolic mandate.
At World Youth Day 2008, he impressed many by his youthful energy, such as walking down stairs and standing for long periods.
Piers Paul Read wrote in The Spectator on 5 March 2005:
There can be little doubt that his courageous promotion of orthodox Catholic teaching has earned him the respect of his fellow cardinals throughout the world. He is patently holy, highly intelligent and sees clearly what is at stake. Indeed, for those who blame the decline of Catholic practice in the developed world precisely on the propensity of many European bishops to hide their heads in the sand, a pope who confronts it may be just what is required. Ratzinger is no longer young—he is 78 years old: but Angelo Roncalli, who revolutionized Catholicism by calling the Second Vatican Council was almost the same age (76) when he became pope as John XXIII. As Jeff Israely, the correspondent of Time, was told by a Vatican insider last month, "The Ratzinger solution is definitely on.
Though Ratzinger was increasingly considered the front runner by much of the international media, others maintained that his election was far from certain since very few papal predictions in modern history had come true. The elections of both John Paul II and his predecessor, John Paul I had been rather unexpected. Despite being the favorite (or perhaps because he was the favorite), it was a surprise to many that he was actually elected, as traditionally the frontrunners are passed over by the conclave for someone else.
Before his first appearance at the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica after becoming pope, he was announced by Jorge Medina Estévez, protodeacon of the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Medina Estévez first addressed the massive crowd as "dear(est) brothers and sisters" in Italian, Spanish, French, German and English, with each language receiving cheers from the international crowd, before continuing with the traditional Habemus Papam announcement in Latin.
At the balcony, Benedict's first words to the crowd, given in Italian before he gave the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing in Latin, were:
Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with insufficient instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help, let us move forward. The Lord will help us, and Mary, His Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.
On 24 April, he celebrated the Papal Inauguration Mass in St. Peter's Square, during which he was invested with the Pallium and the Ring of the Fisherman. Then, on 7 May, he took possession of his Cathedral church, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.
Benedict XVI explained his choice of name during his first General Audience in St. Peter's Square, on 27 April 2005:
Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples. Additionally, I recall Saint Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, whose life evokes the Christian roots of Europe. I ask him to help us all to hold firm to the centrality of Christ in our Christian life: May Christ always take first place in our thoughts and actions!
During his inaugural Mass, the previous custom of every cardinal submitting to the Pope was replaced by having twelve people, including cardinals, clergy, religious, a married couple and their child, and newly confirmed people, greet him. (The cardinals had formally sworn their obedience upon his election.) He has begun using an open-topped papal car, saying that he wanted to be closer to the people. Pope Benedict has continued the tradition of his predecessor John Paul II and baptizes several infants in the Sistine Chapel at the beginning of every year, in his pastoral role as Bishop of Rome.
Benedict's coat of arms has omitted the papal tiara, which traditionally appears in the background to designate the Pope's position as a worldly ruler like a king, replacing it with a simple mitre, emphasizing his spiritual authority. Although some papal documents since his inauguration appear to include the papal tiara, this is because the arms of the Holy See itself (as opposed to his personal arms) continue to use the tiara and crossed keys, as can be observed, for example, on the website of the Holy See and other official publications. Because it is the shield alone (regardless of its background elements) which is unique to the individual Pope, varying backgrounds are possible for a single shield, though this is rarely done. Pope Benedict XVI also included a traditional pallium beneath his shield as a background element for his arms, emphasizing his pastoral powers.
The first beatification under the new Pope was celebrated on 14 May 2005, by José Cardinal Saraiva Martins. The new Blesseds were Mother Marianne Cope and Mother Ascensión Nicol Goñi. Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen was beatified on 9 October 2005. Mariano de la Mata was beatified in November 2006 and Rosa Eluvathingal was beatified 3 December of that year, and Fr. Basil Moreau is scheduled to be beatified by next year. In October 2008 the following beatifications will take place: Celestine of the Mother of God, Giuseppina Nicoli, Hendrina Stenmanns, Maria Rosa Flesch, Marta Anna Wiecka, Michal Sopocko, Petrus Kibe Kasui and 187 Companions, Susana Paz-Castillo Ramirez.
Unlike his predecessor, Benedict XVI delegated the beatification liturgical service to a Cardinal. On 29 September 2005, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued a communiqué announcing that henceforth beatifications would be celebrated by a representative of the Pope, usually the Prefect of that Congregation.
During his visit to Brazil in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI presided over the canonization of Frei Galvão on 11 May, while George Preca, founder of the Malta based MUSEUM, Szymon of Lipnica, Charles of Mount Argus, and Marie-Eugénie de Jésus were canonized in a ceremony held at the Vatican on 3 June 2007. Preca is the first Maltese saint since the country's conversion to Christianity in A.D. 60 when St. Paul converted the inhabitants. In October 2008 the following canonizations will take place: Saint Alphonsa of India, Gaetano Errico, Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran, María Bernarda Bütler
As Pope, Benedict XVI's main role is to teach about the Catholic faith and the solutions to the problems of discerning and living the faith, a role that he can play well as a former head of the Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The main points of emphasis of his teachings are stated in more detail in Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.
According to commentators, during the Inaugural Mass, the core of the Pope's message, the most moving and famous part, is found in the last paragraph of his homily where he referred to both Jesus Christ and John Paul II. After referring to John Paul II's well-known words, "Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!", Benedict XVI said:
Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?...And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation....When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.
"Friendship with Jesus Christ" is a frequent theme of his preaching. He stressed that on this intimate friendship, "everything depends." He has also said: "We are all called to open ourselves to this friendship with God... speaking to him as to a friend, the only One who can make the world both good and happy... That is all we have to do is put ourselves at his disposal...is an extremely important message. It is a message that helps to overcome what can be considered the great temptation of our time: the claim, that after the Big Bang, God withdrew from history. Thus, in his book Jesus of Nazareth, his main purpose was "to help foster [in the reader] the growth of a living relationship" with Jesus Christ.
He took up this theme in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est. In his personal explanation and summary of the encyclical, he stated: "If friendship with God becomes for us something ever more important and decisive, then we will begin to love those whom God loves and who are in need of us. God wants us to be friends of his friends and we can be so, if we are interiorly close to them. Thus, he said that prayer is "urgently needed...It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work."
Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of education is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego.
He said that "a dictatorship of relativism was the core challenge facing the church and humanity. At the root of this problem, he said, is Kant's "self-limitation of reason". This, he said, is contradictory to the modern acclamation of science, whose excellence is based on the power of reason to know the truth. He said that this self-amputation of reason leads to pathologies of religion such as terrorism and pathologies of science such as ecological disasters. Benedict traced the failed revolutions and violent ideologies of the twentieth century to a conversion of partial points of view into absolute guides. He said "Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is called totalitarianism.
In the discussion with secularism and rationalism, one of Benedict's basic ideas can be found in his address on the "Crisis of Culture" in the West, a day before Pope John Paul II died, when he referred to Christianity as the Religion of the Logos (the Greek for "word", "reason", "meaning", or "intelligence"). He said:
From the beginning, Christianity has understood itself as the religion of the Logos, as the religion according to reason...It has always defined men, all men without distinction, as creatures and images of God, proclaiming for them...the same dignity. In this connection, the Enlightenment is of Christian origin and it is no accident that it was born precisely and exclusively in the realm of the Christian faith....It was and is the merit of the Enlightenment to have again proposed these original values of Christianity and of having given back to reason its own voice... Today, this should be precisely [Christianity's] philosophical strength, in so far as the problem is whether the world comes from the irrational, and reason is not other than a 'sub-product,' on occasion even harmful of its development—or whether the world comes from reason, and is, as a consequence, its criterion and goal...In the so necessary dialogue between secularists and Catholics, we Christians must be very careful to remain faithful to this fundamental line: to live a faith that comes from the Logos, from creative reason, and that, because of this, is also open to all that is truly rational.
Benedict also emphasized that "Only creative reason, which in the crucified God is manifested as love, can really show us the way."
In his first encyclical, "God is love", he said that a human being, created in the image of God who is love, is able to practice love: to give himself to God and others (agape), by receiving and experiencing God's love in contemplation (eros). This life of love, according to him, is the life of the saints such as Teresa of Calcutta and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and is the direction Christians take when they believe that God loves them in Jesus Christ.
The encyclical contains almost 16,000 words in 42 paragraphs. The first half is said to have been written by Benedict in German, his mother tongue, in the summer of 2005; the second half is derived from uncompleted writings left by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. The document was signed by Pope Benedict on Christmas Day, 25 December 2005. The encyclical was promulgated a month later in Latin and was translated into English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish. It is the first encyclical to be published since the Vatican decided to assert copyright in the official writings of the Pope.
Pope Benedict's second encyclical titled Spe Salvi ("Saved by Hope"), about the virtue of hope, was released on 30 November 2007. His third encyclical will be social in nature, and reportedly an extension of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Populorum Progressio, and will be titled Caritas in Veritate (charity in truth).
Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity) signed 22 February 2007, released in Latin, Italian, English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Polish. It was made available in various languages 13 March 2007 in Rome. The English edition from Libera Editrice Vaticana is 158 pages. This apostolic exhortation "seeks to take up the richness and variety of the reflections and proposals which emerged from the recent Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops..." which was held in 2006.
On 7 July 2007, Benedict XVI issued the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, declaring that upon "the request of the faithful", celebration of Mass according to the Missal of 1962 (commonly known as the Tridentine Mass), was to be more easily permitted. Stable groups who previously had to petition their bishop to have a Tridentine Mass may now merely request permission from their local priest. While Summorum Pontificum directs that pastors should provide the Tridentine Mass upon the requests of the faithful, it also allows for any qualified priest to offer private celebrations of the Tridentine Mass, to which the faithful may be admitted if they wish. For regularly scheduled public celebrations of the Tridentine Mass, the permission of the priest in charge of the church is required.
In an accompanying letter, the Pope outlined his position concerning questions about the new guidelines, emphasizing that the Tridentine Mass would not detract from the Second Vatican Council, and that the Mass of Paul VI would still be the norm and priests were not permitted to refuse to say the Mass in that form. He pointed out that use of Tridentine Mass "was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted." The letter also decried "deformations of the liturgy ... because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal" as the Second Vatican Council was wrongly seen "as authorizing or even requiring creativity", mentioning his own experience.
The Pope also considered that allowing the Tridentine Mass to those who request it was a means to prevent schism, stating that, on occasions in past history, "not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity" and that this "imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. Many feel the decree aimed at ending the schism between the Holy See and traditionalist groups such as the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). Darío Castrillón Cardinal Hoyos, the president of the Pontifical Commission that oversees the Tridentine Mass stated that the decree "opened the door for their return," and said "I wouldn't understand if they don't come back." Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, expressed "deep gratitude to the Sovereign Pontiff for this great spiritual benefit.", but also said that the group "had to iron out doctrinal differences with the Vatican before a reconciliation could take place."
Some Jewish groups criticized the move because of petitions for the conversion of the Jews included in the Tridentine Good Friday liturgy, which had been reworded by the liturgical reforms. Some Catholic voices feared that the move would entail a reversal of the Second Vatican Council.
The document stated that "the full identity of the Church of Christ" is the Roman Catholic Church. It said that the Catholic Church notes "that there are 'numerous elements of sanctification and of truth' which are found outside her structure, but which 'as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity'. It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church."
The approval of the document drew some criticism, such as the statement by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches which said "It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity." The statement continued that the document "makes us question the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogues with the Reformed family and other families of the church". The leading Lutheran cleric in Germany Bishop Wolfgang Huber wondered why no attempt was made to use more diplomatic language saying, "it would also be completely sufficient if it were to be said that the reforming churches are 'not churches in the sense required here' or that they are 'churches of another type'—but none of these bridges is used" in the Vatican document." Others, such as Rev. Sara MacVane, of the Anglican Centre in Rome, saw it as in line with the previous position of the Church but questioned the timing of its release, saying "I don't know what motivated it at this time." The Russian Orthodox Church, however, called the document "honest", noting that it contains nothing new and was conducive to "an honest theological dialogue. The issuing of this document and the recent allowance made by Benedict XVI for more widespread use of the traditional Tridentine Mass was seen by some of his critics as a move towards conservatism, some even "raised questions about Benedict’s commitment to the changes made during the Second Vatican Council.
Speaking at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square on 7 June 2006, Pope Benedict asserted that Jesus himself had entrusted the leadership of the Church to his apostle Peter. "Peter's responsibility thus consists of guaranteeing the communion with Christ," said Pope Benedict. "Let us pray so that the primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, may always be exercised in this original sense desired by the Lord, so that it will be increasingly recognised in its true meaning by brothers who are still not in communion with us." The Catholic Church teaches that the Pope has a leading role among Christians because as Bishop of Rome he is successor to the apostle Peter who first held the office. The role of the papacy remains a source of controversy, not only for Protestant denominations but also for Eastern Orthodox churches, who likewise do not accept Petrine primacy as defined at the First Vatican Council.
On 29 August 2006, Pope Benedict XVI met with Bishop Bernard Fellay of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, an international society of traditionalist Roman Catholic priests, which since 1975 has existed in a state of dispute with the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Fellay had previously issued a statement welcoming the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope.
The bishops of the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople have expressed concern over Pope Benedict XVI's decision to strike out "patriarch of the West" from his official titles in the Vatican yearbook. In a 8 June 2006 statement, the chief secretary of the Orthodox bishops' synod said dropping "patriarch of the West" while retaining the titles "vicar of Jesus Christ" and "supreme pontiff of the universal church" is "perceived as implying a universal jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome over the entire church, a claim that the Orthodox have never accepted." The statement was issued after synod members discussed the change during their early June meeting. Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said in a March statement that dropping the title of patriarch in reference to the pope does not minimize the importance of the patriarchal office, particularly in relation to the ancient Eastern churches. "Even less can this suppression be seen as implying new claims" of power or authority on the part of the Vatican, he said. However, members of the Orthodox synod disagreed. From their point of view, "the geographical limits of each ecclesiastical jurisdiction" have been a key part of the structure of the church from the earliest days of Christianity. The church as a whole is "a unity of full local churches" and not a monolith divided into local units simply for the sake of easier governance. The Orthodox synod's statement said that, with the international Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue set to begin again in September with plans to deal with the "thorny problem" of papal primacy, it would have been better not to have removed the title without consultation.
A leading Muscovite Orthodox spokesman has said that a visit to Ukraine by Pope Benedict XVI would be "untimely", according to the country's RISU news service. "If Pope Benedict is a moral and a spiritual person and wants only good for Ukraine and its people, he will never take such an unreasonable step," said Valentyn Lukianyk, the head of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods of Ukraine. He was responding to the news that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has invited the Pope to visit the country. After the collapse of the Soviet Union there have been numerous clashes between Orthodox and Catholic believers over the ownership of parish properties that were confiscated by the Communists and handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church. At the same time, Orthodox leaders have complained that Catholics are engaged in "proselytism", seeking converts among Orthodox believers. In his statement opposing a papal visit, Lukianyk said that relations between Catholics and Orthodox in Ukraine are now "warming." A visit by Pope Benedict, he said, would place an undue burden on those sensitive ties.
Archbishop Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens, visited Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on 13 December 2006. It was the first official visit by a Church of Greece leader to the Vatican. Archbishop Christodoulos was present for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, with other Orthodox prelates also were present for the funeral Mass, but did not participate liturgically.
In more general terms, Pope Benedict addressed Protestant churches in a speech during his trip to Cologne, Germany in 2005, discussing a "renewed sense of our brotherhood" and "a more open and trusting climate between Christians belonging to the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities.
According to John L. Allen, Jr.'s Cardinal Ratzinger, the Pope, a German himself, feels a bond towards Lutherans and has Lutheran friends. Allen, in fact, compares the then Cardinal Ratzinger's feelings towards Lutherans to the feelings John Paul had for Orthodox Christians in that both men wanted a divided Christendom to be reunited. The Pope is said to be rather ambivalent towards Martin Luther.
In Autumn 2006 Pope Benedict met with Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican Communion. They issued a Common Declaration, highlighting the previous 40 years of dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans while also acknowledging "serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress. In January 2008, he also met with John Sentamu, Archbishop of York.
The June 2007 clarification of Dominus Iesus, approved by the Pope, restated the Catholic Church's position that because of their perceived lack of bishops in the historic episcopate, Protestant faith communities "are not true Churches," as contrasted with Orthodox communities, which have bishops in the apostolic line and are therefore are considered true, if deficient, Churches.. In this context, Pope Benedict has reiterated his church's view about the supposed invalidity of Anglican orders.
Regarding the pope's comment, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark issued the statement: "It has a destructive effect on ecumenical relations if one church deprives another church of the right to be called a church. It is just as destructive as if one Christian denies another Christian the right to be called a Christian.
The Pope's claim that Protestant faith communities "are not true Churches", was described by Adventists as "nothing more than tradition".
Pope Benedict is open to dialogue with other religious groups, and has sought to improve relations with them throughout his pontificate. He has, however, generated certain controversies in doing so.
Pope Benedict's relations with Islam have been at times strained. On 12 September 2006 Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture which touched on Islam at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The pope had previously served as professor of theology at the university, and his lecture was entitled "Faith, Reason and the University—Memories and Reflections". The lecture received much attention from political and religious authorities. Many Islamic politicians and religious leaders registered their protest against what they said was an insulting mischaracterization of Islam, although his focus was aimed towards the rationality of religious violence, and its effect on the religion. the following passage from the Pope's speech:
Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.
The passage originally appeared in the “Dialogue Held With A Certain Persian, the Worthy Mouterizes, in Anakara of Galatia”, written in 1391 as an expression of the views of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, one of the last Christian rulers before the Fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottoman Empire, on such issues as forced conversion, holy war, and the relationship between faith and reason. According to the German text, the Pope's original comment was that the emperor "addresses his interlocutor in an astoundingly harsh—to us surprisingly harsh—way" (wendet er sich in erstaunlich schroffer, uns überraschend schroffer Form). Pope Benedict apologised for any offence he had caused and made a point of visiting Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, and praying in its Blue Mosque.
The Dalai Lama congratulated Pope Benedict XVI upon his election, and visited him in October 2006 in the Vatican City. Benedict declined to see him in 2007. It has been suggested that this was for political reasons involving the position of Chinese Catholics.
While visiting Brazil in May 2007, "the pope sparked controversy by saying that native populations had been 'silently longing' for the Christian faith brought to South America by colonizers." The Pope continued, stating that "the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture." President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela demanded an apology, and an indigenous organization in Ecuador issued a response which stated that "representatives of the Catholic Church of those times, with honorable exceptions, were accomplices, deceivers and beneficiaries of one of the most horrific genocides of all humanity." Later, the pope, speaking Italian, said at a weekly audience that it was "not possible to forget the suffering and the injustices inflicted by colonizers against the indigenous population, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled.
Benedict has traveled extensively during the three years of his papacy. In addition to his travels within Italy, Pope Benedict XVI has made two visits to his homeland, Germany, one for World Youth Day and another to visit the towns of his childhood. He has also visited Poland and Spain, where he was enthusiastically received. His visit to Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, was initially overshadowed by the controversy about a lecture he had given at Regensburg. His visit was met by nationalist and Islamic protesters and was placed under unprecedented security measures. However, the trip went ahead and Benedict made a joint declaration with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in an attempt to begin to heal the rift between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
In 2007, Pope Benedict visited Brazil in order to address the Bishops' Conference there and canonise Friar Antônio Galvão, an 18th century Franciscan. In June 2007, Benedict made a personal pilgrimage and pastoral visit to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. In September, Benedict undertook a three day visit to Austria, during which he joined Vienna's chief rabbi in a memorial to the 65,000 Viennese Jews who perished in Nazi death camps. During his stay in Austria, he also celebrated Mass at the Marian shrine Mariazell.
In April 2008 Pope Benedict XVI made his first visit to the United States since becoming pope. He arrived in Washington, DC where he was formally received at the White House and met privately with U.S. President George W. Bush. While in Washington, the pope addressed representatives of US Catholic universities, met with leaders of other world religions, and celebrated Mass at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium with 47,000 people. The Pope also met privately with victims of sexual abuse by priests. The pope traveled to New York where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Also while in New York, the pope celebrated Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, met with disabled children and their families, and attended an event for Catholic youth, where he addressed some 25,000 young people in attendance. On the final day of the pope's visit, he visited the World Trade Center site and later celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium.
In July 2008 the Pope travelled to Australia to attend World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney. On 19 July, in St. Mary's Cathedral, he made an apology for child sex abuse perpetrated by the clergy in Australia. On September 13, 2008, at an outdoor Paris Mass attended by 250,000 people, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the modern materialism - the world's love of power, possessions and money as a modern-day plague, comparing it to "paganism.
Pope Benedict XVI has re-introduced several papal garments which had previously fallen into disuse. Pope Benedict XVI resumed the use of the traditional red papal shoes, which had not been used since early in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Contrary to the initial speculation of the press that the shoes had been made by the Italian fashion house Prada, the Vatican announced that the shoes were provided by the pope's personal cobbler.
On 21 December 2005, the pope began wearing the camauro, the traditional red papal hat usually worn in the winter. It had not been seen since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII (1958–1963). On 6 September 2006 the pope began wearing the red cappello romano (also called a saturno), a wide-brimmed hat for outdoor use. Rarely used by John Paul II, it was more widely worn by his predecessors.
Pope Benedict XVI has also restored the use of all three forms of the papal mozzetta. While only the red satin summer mozzetta was used by John Paul II, Benedict XVI has also made use of the winter papal mozzetta and the paschal mozzetta, both of which were last worn by Pope Paul VI The winter papal mozzetta is of red velvet trimmed with white ermine, and the paschal mozzetta, worn only during the Eastertide, is of white damask silk trimmed with white ermine.
During his installment address, Pope Benedict XVI spoke at length about the significance of the pallium, and he has returned to an ancient version of the vestment, an Eastern design, used by the popes of the first millennium. Benedict XVI has also returned to wearing traditional forms of other liturgical vestments to emphasize the continuity of the papacy and the church.
One item that Benedict has not worn to date is the papal tiara. Like his two immediate predecessors, Benedict chose not to be crowned with the tiara during his Inauguration Mass, nor has he worn it since that time. Unlike them, however, he has emphasized this decision by breaking with prior tradition in using a mitre instead of the tiara in his coat of arms. Other traditional pontifical vestments remain unused as well, including the fanon, the pontifical gloves, and the papal slippers.
Franco Zeffirelli, the famed Italian film director of numerous lavish productions, criticized the Pontiff's vestments as being too "showy." He said that, "These are not times of high-tailored church wear." Zeffirelli believes that Pope Benedict's garments are "too sumptuous" and make the pontiff appear cold and removed from his surroundings. The Vatican explained Benedict's use of traditional vestments such as older, much taller miters during his "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas greeting by pointing to the need "to underline the continuity of today's liturgical celebration with that which characterized the life of the church in the past." The Pope's liturgist likened the use of vestments worn by previous popes to annotations in papal documents, where "a pope cites the pontiffs who preceded him in order to indicate the continuity of the church's magisterium.
In August 2008 the Italian Association for Defense of Animals and the Environment called on Pope Benedict to stop wearing animal furs such as the ermine-trimmed camauro and mozetta whose usage he revived. The group cited the Pontiff's famous love of cats and started an online petition to try and persuade Benedict to switch to synthetics.
Before 1 March 2006, the list of titles also used to contain that of a "Patriarch of the West", which traditionally appeared in that list of titles before "Primate of Italy." The title of "Patriarch of the West" was first adopted in the year 642 by Pope Theodore I, but was rarely used since the East-West Schism of 1054. From the Orthodox perspective, authority in the Church could be traced to the five patriarchates of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. However, some Catholic theologians have argued that the term "Patriarch of the West" has no clear historical or theological basis and was introduced into papal court in 1870, at the time of the First Vatican Council. Pope Benedict chose to remove the title at a time when discussions with the Orthodox churches have centered on the issue of papal primacy. It has also been suggested that "the West" is a misnomer as the modern Latin Church is today global in its extent. Pope John Paul II reportedly considered dropping the title during his own pontificate.
Later visiting the country to "reiterate the solidarity between the cultures," it was reported that he made a counter-statement backing Turkey's bid to join the EU. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, after meeting the pope upon his arrival in Ankara, the pope's first visit to a majority Muslim country, said that the pope told him that while the Vatican seeks to stay out of politics it desires Turkey's membership in the EU. However, the Common Declaration of Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople implied that support for Turkey's membership in the European Union would be contingent on the establishment of religious freedom in Turkey: "In every step towards unification, minorities must be protected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion. The Declaration also reiterates Pope Benedict XVI's call for Europe to preserve its Christian roots.
Pope Benedict has also promoted various UN events, such as World Refugee Day, on which he offered up special prayers for refugees and called for the international community to do more to secure refugees' human rights. He also called on Catholic communities and organizations to offer them concrete help.
In 2007 Benedict sent a letter at Easter to Catholics in China that could have wide-ranging implications for the church's relationship with China's leadership. The letter provides long-requested guidance to Chinese bishops on how to respond to illicitly ordained bishops, as well as how to strengthen ties with the Patriotic Association and the Communist government.
Pope Benedict's other major interest is cats. As Cardinal Ratzinger he was known to look after stray cats in Rome. A book called "Joseph and Chico: A Cat Recounts the Life of Pope Benedict XVI" was published in 2007 which told the story of the Pope's life from the feline Chico's perspective. This story was inspired by a real orange tabby Pentling cat, which belonged to the family next door. During his trip to Australia for World Youth Day in 2008 the media reported that festival organizers lent the Pope a grey cat called "Bella in order to keep him company during his stay. However, while a Youth Day organizer confirmed the reports, the Pope's spokesman Father Federico Lombardi denied any knowledge of a cat.