Joseph Ratzinger became Pope in 2005, following Jean-Paul II, after one of the Vatican’s briefest decision-making conclaves in history – about 24 hours. Ratzinger had been John-Paul’s right-hand man.
The German cardinal, reputedly austere, now took on the mantle of promoting the Catholic faith throughout the world at age 78. His detractors nicknamed him the Panzer, likening him to a Second World War tank.
His pontificate was not to be without controversy.
Eighteen months into it, Benedict XVI, as he was now called, unleashed the first storm. He was giving a speech in Regensburg when he attributed more reason to Christian thought than to Islam. He was also interpreted to have said that Islam was intrinsically linked to violence.
Around the planet Muslims protested but Benedict said he had been misunderstood. The atmosphere was calmer when he visited Istanbul three months later and, at the side of an Imam, faced Mecca.
He devoted energy to patching up interfaith relations. He needed to do that with the Anglicans after suggesting that those who did not agree with having women as priests, or in marriage for homosexuals, would be welcome in his church.
Benedict’s beatification of Pope Pius XII aroused anger among some Jews, who said the wartime Pope had not done enough to protect Jews from Nazi persecution and the Holocaust. Benedict defended Pius. His own past was repeatedly scrutinised. When Joseph Ratzinger was a boy, membership in the Hitler Youth movement was mandatory. He enrolled but was let out to study for the priesthood. At 16 he was drafted into the army, and worked in an anti-aircraft brigade, but deserted shortly before the German surrender.
When, in January 2009, the Pope reinstated Richard Williamson and several other traditionalist bishops, his judgement was sorely questioned. He aimed to heal a schism within the church, as Benedict’s predecessor had excommunicated Williamson. Following the reinstatement, the British bishop, in an interview on Swedish television, denied the Holocaust.
“I believe there were no gas chambers, yes. Between 200,000 and 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber.”
Amid an international uproar, the Vatican said it had not been the Pope’s intention to appear to condone a Holocaust-denier, and Rome said an apology by the bishop did not restore Williamson fully in the church.
Benedict’s papacy was also riven by the scandal of paedophile abuses by Catholic priests, and how they were dealt with. Europe and the United States seathed with revelations that the Vatican protected the abusers. It surfaced that the Pope himself, while archbishop of Munich, had allowed an admitted molester to continue church work with children. Benedict apologised to the victims, and announced new sanctions.
There were other pontifical controversies as well. On a visit to Angola, he said that wealth should be better distributed, finance be more moral and he denounced violence, but all those messages faded into the background when he said the HIV problem was made worse by the distribution of condoms, making that statement on a continent plagued with the spread of AIDS.
- 1German police make progress in profiling of Andreas Lubitz, as new video emerges
- 2Germanwings: Terrifying transcripts of doomed plane’s ‘last minutes’
- 3“I hope I never return to a locked door”: Pilot who foresaw Germanwings crash
- 4Lufthansa fears second Germanwings black box may never be found
- 5Germanwings crash: Co-pilot Lubitz had ‘suicidal tendencies’
- 1Germanwings: Terrifying transcripts of doomed plane’s ‘last minutes’
- 2Lufthansa fears second Germanwings black box may never be found
- 3Data recorder is key to ending Flight 9525 speculation
- 4Unconfirmed reports and speculation mount over Germanwings crash
- 5Six world powers to make a final push for a deal over Iran’s nuclear programme
- 1Germanwings crash: search suspended
- 2Prosecutors believe co-pilot deliberately flew Germanwings jet into mountain
- 3‘One day the world will know my name’, Germanwings co-pilot Lubitz ‘declared’
- 4Germanwings press conference mystery: what wasn’t he supposed to say?
- 5Andreas Lubitz: Torn-up sick note for day of crash is found at home of Germanwings co-pilot
- 1euronews live TV - News | euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 2Russian rumour mill suggests Putin suffering poor health | euronews, world news
- 3Slovenia becomes 11th EU nation to approve gay marriage | euronews, world news
- 4[LIVE] Germanwings passenger jet crashes in southern France, 148 people on board – authorities | euronews, world news
- 5Exclusive: CIA and Mossad are behind Boko Haram and ISIL, says Sudan president | euronews, world news
- 6Indian rapist says women to blame for being sexually assaulted | euronews, world news
- 7International news | euronews, latest international news
- 8French Alps plane crash treated as suicide and mass murder by co-pilot | euronews, world news
- 9Why is Bulgaria the EU’s most unhappy country? | euronews, world news
- 10eurovibes - a selection of Europe’s best music talent
- 11Greece’s claim for war reparations from Germany explained | euronews, world news
- 12Reaching new heights: Parents in India scale walls to ‘help students cheat’ | euronews, world news
- 13Tens of thousands march in Moscow in memory of Boris Nemtsov | euronews, world news
- 14Handwriting and the digital age, time for change in schools? | euronews, learning world
- 15London calling: why home-loving Hungarians are flocking to British capital | euronews, reporter
- 16International breaking news | euronews online world breaking news in video
- 17French prosecutor: Germanwings co-pilot appears to have crashed plane deliberately | euronews, world news
- 18Manufacturing jihad – Nicolas Hénin explains what he learned about ISIL | euronews, the global conversation
- 19Germanwings press conference mystery: what wasn’t he supposed to say? | euronews, world news
- 20Which EU country has the biggest gender pay gap? | euronews, world news
Wires > News
- 14:11 CET Hurricane-strength winds batter northern Europe, hit travel
- 13:51 CET Greece, lenders, fail to unlock aid so far – officials
- 13:42 CET Turkish special forces enter Istanbul courthouse after prosecutor…
- 13:32 CET France’s National Front struggles to turn popularity into power
- 12:38 CET Thai man jailed for 25 years over royal insult posts on Facebook
- 12:35 CET Islamic State attacks Syrian village, kills 30 – monitor
- 11:56 CET U.S., Kuwait pledge over $1 billion towards Syria crisis
- 11:34 CET Major power outage hits cities and provinces across Turkey