Pope Benedict XVI was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 19 April 2005 until his resignation on 28 February 2013. Benedict’s election as pope occurred in the 2005 papal conclave that followed the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict chose to be known by the title “pope emeritus” upon his resignation. Ordained as a priest in 1951 in his native Bavaria, Ratzinger embarked on an academic career and established himself as a highly regarded theologian by the late 1950s.
He was appointed a full professor in 1958 at the age of 31. After a long career as a professor of theology at several German universities, he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977, an unusual promotion for someone with little pastoral experience. In 1981, he was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
From 2002 until his election as pope, he was also Dean of the College of Cardinals. Prior to becoming pope, he was a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century; he had an influence second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions as one of John Paul II’s closest confidants. He lived in Rome from 1981 until his death in 2022. His prolific writings generally defended traditional Catholic doctrine and values.
He was originally a liberal theologian, but adopted conservative views after 1968. During his papacy, Benedict XVI advocated a return to fundamental Christian values to counter the increased secularisation of many Western countries. He viewed relativism’s denial of objective truth, and the denial of moral truths in particular, as the central problem of the 21st century. He taught the importance of both the Catholic Church and an understanding of God’s redemptive love.
Benedict also revived a number of traditions, including elevating the Tridentine Mass to a more prominent position. He strengthened the relationship between the Catholic Church and art, promoted the use of Latin, and reintroduced traditional papal vestments, for which reason he was called “the pope of aesthetics”. He had been described as “the main intellectual force in the Church” since the mid-1980s.
On 11 February 2013, Benedict unexpectedly announced his resignation in a speech in Latin before the cardinals, citing a “lack of strength of mind and body” due to his advanced age. His resignation took effect on 28 February 2013. He was the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415, and the first to do so on his own initiative since Celestine V in 1294.
As pope emeritus, Benedict retained the style of His Holiness and dressed in the papal colour of white. He was succeeded by Francis on 13 March 2013, and he moved into the newly renovated Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican City for his retirement on 2 May 2013. The retired Benedict XVI later made occasional public appearances alongside Francis.
In addition to his native German language, Benedict had some level of proficiency in French, Italian, English, and Spanish. He also knew Portuguese, Latin, Biblical Hebrew, and Biblical Greek. He was a member of several social-science academies, such as the French Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques. He played the piano and had a preference for Mozart and Bach. Benedict XVI was also the only pope to become a member of the Hitler Youth during his lifetime.
Some of the best quotes from Pope Benedict XVI are listed below.
1. Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others.
2. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.
3. To be truly alive is to be transformed from within, open to the energy of God’s love.
4. Freedom of conscience is the core of all freedom.
5. Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness.
6. I ask you to “abide” in the adoration of Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. I ask you to enter into conversation with him, to bring before him your questions and to listen to his voice.
7. One who has hope lives differently.
8. Apart from Jesus Christ risen from the dead, there can be no salvation! He alone can free the world from evil and bring about the growth of the Kingdom of justice, peace and love to which we all aspire.
9. Let unifying love be your measure; abiding love your challenge; self-giving love your mission!
10. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.
11. The proper request of love is that our entire life should be oriented to the imitation of the Beloved. Let us therefore spare no effort to leave a transparent trace of God’s love in our life.
12. God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God.
13. To acknowledge the beauty and goodness of marriage is to realize that only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with openness to God’s gift of life, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love.
14. The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.
15. Life is not just a succession of events or experiences. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this – in truth, in goodness and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy.
16. Men and women were created for something great, for infinity. Nothing else will ever be enough.
17. The desire for a more meaningful life is a sign that God created us and that we bear his “imprint”.
18. God is the source of life. To set God aside is to separate ourselves from that source and, inevitably, to deprive ourselves of fulfilment and joy.19. Christian faith is not only a matter of believing that certain things are true, but above all a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is an encounter with the Son of God that gives new energy to the whole of our existence. When we enter into a personal relationship with him, Christ reveals our true identity and, in friendship with him, our life grows towards complete fulfilment.
20. What counts is not the fulfilment of my desires, but of his will. In this way life becomes authentic.
21. Dear friends, build your house on rock. Try each day to follow Christ’s word. Listen to him as a true friend with whom you can share your path in life. With him at your side, you will find courage and hope to face difficulties and problems, and even to overcome disappointments and set-backs.
22. Dear young people, the Church depends on you! She needs your lively faith, your creative charity and the energy of your hope. Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church.
23. Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.24. Truth draws strength from itself and not from the number of votes in its favour.
25. Evil draws its power from indecision and concern for what other people think.
26. Many people have no stable points of reference on which to build their lives, and so they end up deeply insecure. There is a growing mentality of relativism, which holds that everything is equally valid, that truth and absolute points of reference do not exist. But this way of thinking does not lead to true freedom, but rather to instability, confusion and blind conformity to the fads of the moment.
27. We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one’s own ego and one’s own desires. The Church needs to withstand the tides of trends and the latest novelties.28. Experience tells us that a world without God becomes a “hell”: filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy and hope. On the other hand, wherever individuals and nations accept God’s presence, worship him in truth and listen to his voice, then the civilization of love is being built, a civilization in which the dignity of all is respected, and communion increases, with all its benefits.
29. The Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality.
30. Young people need authentic teachers: persons open to the fullness of truth in the various branches of knowledge, persons who listen to and experience in own hearts that interdisciplinary dialogue; persons who, above all, are convinced of our human capacity to advance along the path of truth.
31. Do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ.