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.
- 1euronews live TV - News | euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 2International news | euronews, latest international news
- 3Most Istanbul blast victims ‘were German’, says Turkey
- 4Thousands in Bucharest blame corruption for Friday’s nightclub blaze
- 5Madrid to appeal Catalan road to independence from Spain
- 6Hope vs harsh reality: challenges to global education goals in the 21st century
- 7Moldova: protesters storm Parliament
- 8Partnering to grow Europe
- 9Jorge Lorenzo clinches his third MotoGP title in Valencia
- 10Norway sends Syrian refugees back to Russia
- 11Merroussis clinches the 33rd Athens Authentic Marathon
- 12Extras : euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 13‘National’ funeral for Celine Dion’s husband ‘over the top’
- 14Special Reports : euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 15Brussels remains on high alert: ‘multiple operations underway’ across Belgium
- 16Benzema questioned in French sex tape case
- 17Paris: “I would rather see my brother in prison than in a cemetery”
- 18latest Learning World - All Programmes | euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 19account : euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 20Caught by the Maasai at mid-on ‘Warriors’ play cricket
Latest world news
US primaries: Trump leading Republican pack, Sanders gaining on Clinton
Brazil carnival opens, amid growing Zika fears
At least five dead as powerful quake hits southern Taiwan
Former soldier stoned to death in Haiti clashes
Syrians flee to Turkish border as government forces close in on Aleppo
Wires > News
- 11:24 CET Three British troops injured in covert operation in Iraq – Mirror
- 11:17 CET Australian state premier offers 267 asylum seekers refuge
- 10:41 CET Taiwan quake kills at least eight, fells apartment block
- 10:18 CET Iran mocks Saudi offer to send ground troops to Syria
- 08:26 CET Al Qaeda mourns death of top commander in Yemen
- 07:56 CET Efforts to revive Afghan peace talks continue in Pakistan
- 07:06 CET As Myanmar powerbrokers talk, could Suu Kyi emerge as president?
- 05:25 CET China faces diplomatic ‘crisis’ over missing Hong Kong booksellers