Five years ago, the world’s Catholics were in mourning.
John Paul II, the pope with the third longest papacy in history, had just died, ending an era that became known as the “Jean Paul II generation.”
A pope adored by the faithful, he has a place in history, being seen as one of the most influential political leaders of the 20th century
The election of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI , was seen as a setback for the progressive faction at the Vatican and left catholics divided.
Five years on, the Catholic church, is in an unprecedented crisis over sexual abuse scandals, which could affect Benedict and perhaps cast a shadow over John Paul II.
Tourists outside the Vatican were divided. One Italian woman said: “These scandals could undermine the reputations of both the former and the current pope.”
While a Spanish tourist said: “I don’t think so, maybe it will hit Ratzinger, but not John Paul II.”
However for years, Cardinal Ratzinger was a close advisor to the pope. The question remains, if one knew about the extent of the sex abuse scandals, how could the other not have?
For the moment though John Paul II remains judged by his popularity, his charisma and his role in history.
He is remembered as a pope of reconciliation who worked to bring religions together, and particularly for his efforts in the fall of Communism.
As a political pope, who gave the Holy See a much greater international role.
That is not Benedict’s style. An expert in theology, not know to compromise, for him diplomacy is secondary.
However religious observers say, at heart, he shares the convictions of his predecessor.
Indeed it was John Paul II who brought Ratzinger to Rome in 1981, putting him in charge of church doctrine.
They concurred on all the hot button issues – abortion, homosexuality, contraception.
There is a huge difference in style, with Pope Benedict sometimes criticised as rigid and authoritative – as for example, when he said that the use of condoms which would worsen AIDS rather than contain it.
Comparison are impossible as the two pontiffs have headed the Catholic Church in very different times.
John Paul II, the Polish pope, was able to focus on the evil empire of communism while Benedict XVI’s term is overshadowed by the church’s failure to affectively address an evil within.