The controversies that surrounded Benedict XVI during his papacy: abuse, homosexual marriage...
He was the first pope in over six centuries to resign from his position, after a number of issues and investigations forced his hand.
Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, the former pope known as Benedict XVI became the first head of the Catholic Church in 600 years to resign from his ‘all of life’ position. Having two popes alive at the same time was so unusual that a Hollywood movie was even made recounting the story.
As his successor, Pope Francis, spoke on Wednesday about Benedict’s worsening health, we look back on the highs and lows, including the controversies, that littered his papal ministry.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: a timeline
April 19 - German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, is elected to succeed Pope John Paul II as the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He chooses the name Benedict XVI.
Sept. 9-14 - The pope visits his Bavarian homeland. He sparks protests from the Muslim world with a speech quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said Islam had only brought evil to the world and was spread by the sword. Days later, Benedict says he was “deeply sorry” about Muslim reaction to his speech, which he says was misunderstood.
Nov. 28-Dec. 1 - Papal trip to Turkey is a fence-mending visit including prayers with Istanbul’s grand mufti facing Mecca at the city’s Blue Mosque.
July 7 - Pope issues a declaration allowing the old Latin Mass to be celebrated more widely, a demand of church traditionalists.
Feb. 5. - Pope changes a Latin prayer for Good Friday services by traditionalist Catholics, deleting a reference to Jews and their “blindness” but still calling for them to accept Jesus.
Jan. 24 - Pope causes uproar by lifting excommunications of four ultra-traditionalist bishops, including a Holocaust denier.
Nov. 6 - Benedict arrives in Spain for a two-day visit. He attacks abortion and gay marriage, recently legalised in Spain, in a Mass to consecrate Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia church in another pointed criticism of what he called Spain’s “aggressive secularism”.
July 25 - The Vatican recalls its ambassador to Ireland following an unprecedented rebuke of the Holy See by the Irish parliament in the wake of a report that accused church authorities of covering up sexual abuse.
Through the year, Benedict’s papacy is shaken by a scandal dubbed “Vatileaks” in which leaked documents show infighting among Benedict’s aides and general dysfunction at the heart of the Church’s central administration, known as the Curia. The scandal exposed financial corruption and allegations about the existence of a so-called “gay lobby” that used blackmail to protect its members.
Oct. 6 - A Vatican court finds Benedict’s former butler guilty of stealing sensitive documents and sentences him to a year and a half in prison. Paolo Gabriele said he had acted out of “visceral” love for the Roman Catholic Church and the pope. Benedict later pardoned Gabriele and the Vatican later found him a job in a hospital. Gabriele died in 2020.
Feb. 11 - Benedict announces his intention to resign, saying he no longer has the physical and mental strength to run the Church. The surprise announcement shocks a meeting of cardinals.
Feb. 28 - Benedict formally steps down, moving temporarily to the papal summer residence south of Rome, and later moving to a former convent inside the Vatican gardens, with his secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, and other aides and medical staff.
Jan. 20 - An independent report in Germany alleges Benedict failed to act against four cases of sexual abuse in his archdiocese when he was Archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982. Benedict pope later acknowledges errors occurred and asks for forgiveness.
Dec. 28 - His successor, Pope Francis, calls for prayers for the former pontiff saying Benedict is “very sick”.