Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Central Loggia of St. Peter's Basilica on the day of his election Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Central Loggia of St. Peter's Basilica on the day of his election 

Benedict XVI: Key events of his pontificate

The papacy of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was momentous and focused on the goal of bringing "God back to the centre”.

By Vatican News

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s reign lasted exactly seven years, ten months and nine days.

It began on 19 April 2005 and ended on 28 February 2013 with the surprise announcement that he was stepping down from the Petrine Ministry, the first Pope to do so in nearly 600 years.

Although his papacy was a lot shorter than that of his predecessor, St. John Paul II, it was still a busy and momentous one.

In those nearly 8 years, Benedict carried out 24 Apostolic Visits abroad; participated in three World Youth Days and a World Meeting of Families; wrote three encyclicals, an Apostolic Constitution, three Apostolic Exhortations; summoned four Synods (2 Ordinary and 2 Extraordinary); created 84 cardinals; proclaimed 45 saints and 855 blessed, among them his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

One of the key themes of his pontificate was his desire to bring "God back to the centre" in a world where he said “the faith is in danger of dying out" (Letter to the bishops of the whole world – 10 March 2009). He also often stressed the need to purify the Church.

Pope of dialogue between faith and reason

In the wake of his predecessors – from John XXIII to John Paul II – and in line with the main themes spelt out in his first encyclical "Deus Caritas Est", Benedict XVI was a Pope who was aware of the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, although this was an often under-estimated characteristic of his pontificate.

This dialogue was marked by several difficulties and misunderstandings but Benedict persevered with his efforts to reach out to those of different religions, faiths and cultures.

A recurring theme in many of his discourses and writings was the link between faith and reason: faith presupposes reason and perfects it,” he wrote.  

Examples of this theme were contained in his famous (but misunderstood) address at Regensburg in Germany, (2006), his address to representatives of the world of culture in Paris (2008), his historic address at London’s Westminster Hall (2010) and an equally historic address to the German Bundestag (2011).

A Pope at the helm of a boat in stormy waters

Pope Benedict’s reign coincided with a particularly difficult period for the Church, marked above all by the clerical sex abuse crisis and the Vatileaks scandal.

In a keynote speech at the start of his pontificate, the German Pontiff had condemned “the filth” in the Church, and he faced up to these crises with clarity and determination and laid the groundwork for the reforms that would be carried out later by Pope Francis.

One of the distinctive features of Benedict’s pontificate was the relentless struggle he waged against the scourge of paedophilia within the Church. This was borne out by the sharp increase in the number of priests suspended in 2011 and 2012 (400) due to involvement in cases of sex abuse as well as the number of bishops sent away because of their mismanagement of the crisis.

These figures were the first tangible result of the reform Benedict enacted, entitled "De Gravioribus Delictis" a document that contained regulations aimed at making law enforcement and prevention of sexual abuse more effective.

When it came to financial scandals involving the Vatican, credit must also go to Benedict XVI for initiating reforms to make the management of the Holy See’s financial affairs more transparent.

A case in point was his Motu Proprio of 30 December 2010 on "Preventing and Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing".

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31 December 2022, 10:59