Benedict XVI. or Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was the first pope who stepped back from this post since 1294. Since 2013, the Catholic Church “has” two popes: Benedict and Pope Francis. While Benedict was considered as a pope with very conservative views, who is living in his “ivory tower”, Pope Francis is portrayed as a complete contrast to him. The pompous conservative and intellectual plus well-read Benedict from Germany vs. the modest Jesuit Franciscus from Argentina, who wants to change the Catholic Church from scratch (a very interesting book about this topic: The Two Popes by Anthony McCarten). Even though Pope Francis is now the head of more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide, Benedict still remains a shadow at the Vatican.
Who is Joseph Ratzinger?
Five Quick Benedict XVI. Facts
- Joseph Ratzinger was born in 1927 in Marktl, a village in the German state Bavaria (in the year 2020 around 50 % of the inhabitants in Bavaria are Catholics). He grew up with two siblings, an older brother called Georg and a sister called Maria. Georg Ratzinger is also a well-known church musician.
- He speaks several different languages. Next to his mother tongue German, Ratzinger is also fluent in English, Italian, French, and Spanish. Next to these five “living languages”, he is also said to have an extraordinary talent in Ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.
- He grew up in Nazi Germany when it became difficult to practise religion. Still and especially due to his father, Ratzinger always remained very religious and even attended the archiepiscopal study seminar St. Michael.
- Ratzinger studied theology and is said to be an “appointed theology teacher”. Still, during his almost eight years of being the head of the Catholic church, he often used to put his foot into his mouth with controversial statements. This apparent “unworldliness” could be of a product of him being a better writer (he is said to be a very good one and his specialty is writing in Latin) rather than a speaker.
- Joseph Ratzinger was one of the most influential Cardinals during the time of John Paul II. Both shared conservative views and Ratzinger was the theological adviser as well as the right hand of the Pope. Also one of the reasons, why he became his successor. Popes in the office usually appoint cardinals who share their views. Since the cardinals (normally) elect the new pope after the death of the current pope, the following pope usually shares similar values.
- Before he became Pope, Ratzinger was Dean of the College of Cardinals and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the (Catholic) Faith.
- 115 Cardinals voted for Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope in the conclave. He decided for the Name Benedict to remind people of the last Pope with this name. Pope Benedict XV. had worked for peace during the First World War and was therefore also called the “Peace Pope”.
- When Joseph Ratzinger became the 265th Pope in April 2005, the famous German newspaper (comparable with the English tabloid The Sun) BILD (bild.de) made a name with the title “Wir sind Papst” ( = We are Pope).
- He always used to wear the color white in his flat in the Apostolic Palace (the residence of the Pope in Vatican City). Here he lived together with two secretaries and four nuns.
- He loves to read and he also used to be a passionate writer which he left due to his age.
- Even after his resignation, the German Pope emeritus is still living in the Vatican. In a monastery in the Vatican gardens, he is enjoying calmness and peace.