Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has died, December 31, 2022.
Vatican press office director Matteo Bruni reported, “With sorrow I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, passed away today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican. Further information will be provided as soon as possible.”
Reports in recent days indicated that Benedict had suffered a decline in health, but that he was resting and stable.
Born in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, on April 16, 1927, Joseph Ratzinger was the third youngest child of his parents, Joseph and Maria. As a child he developed a deep devotion to Mary and declared at the age of five that he would be a cardinal after an encounter with a cardinal and being so impressed with the churchman’s outfit and his dignity. He was forcibly enrolled in the Hitler Youth, as were all children in Germany during the Nazi regime, and conscripted into the German army, from which he deserted in April 1945. His family had suffered as a result of their opposition to Nazi policy. After several months as a prisoner of war of the Americans, he was released and continued his seminary studies that he had started prior to the war.
Ratzinger was ordained on June 29, 1951, along with his brother Georg, and began his career as a university professor. He became vice president at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria. He was invited to attend the Second Vatican Council as a peritus, that is, an expert in theology and George Weigel, in his new book “To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II” wrote that Ratzinger was likely the most influential theologian in the formation of Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.
In 1977, Pope St. Paul VI appointed Ratzinger archbishop of Munich and Freising and raised him to the college of cardinals that same year. In 1981, Pope St. John Paul II appointed Cardinal Ratzinger prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responsible for promoting and defending Catholic teaching. He held the post of prefect until the death of St. John Paul II in April 2005.
It was well known that Cardinal Ratzinger’s hope was to retire and write. But on April 19, 2005, he was elected to the chair of St. Peter, the 265th pope. He had said just after his election, “At a certain point, I prayed to God, ‘please don’t do this to me’ … Evidently, this time He didn’t listen to me.”
Cardinal Ratzinger took the papal name Benedict in honor of Pope Benedict XV, who reigned during World War I and was a tireless advocate for peace and for victims of the war, and St. Benedict of Nursia, the founder of Western monasticism. As pope, Benedict proved a defender of orthodoxy, while also reaching out to those of various faiths. He was unjustly criticized for being opposed to science while, in fact, he championed the sciences and made important statements on the relationship between evolution and the Catholic faith. He allowed a more generous celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. Benedict visited England under heavy criticism but won over the people and beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman. He also visited the United States, and he canonized St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. He continued to write, including a series on Jesus, His infancy, His ministry, and His passion and resurrection. Benedict declared Hildegard of Bingen and John of Avila Doctors of the Church.
Benedict XVI reigned until 2013, when he shocked the world by announcing his resignation, the first pope to resign from office in over 500 years. As Pope Emeritus, Benedict remained mostly quiet, though speaking on some matters (ie: the need to continue clerical celibacy) and attending the occasional function or activity. What he mostly did was rest and write.
Benedict’s funeral is planned for January 5 and will be celebrated by Pope Francis.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.