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Benedict XVI

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
E. A. LivingstoneE. A. Livingstone

Benedict XVI 

(1927– ),

Pope from 2005 to 2012. Joseph Ratzinger, a native of Bavaria, like most Germans of his generation, was enrolled in the Hitler Youth Movement. Later he taught in various German universities and attended the Second Vatican Council (1962-5) as a theological adviser. Originally accounted a progressive theologian, he became more traditional. In 1977 he was made Abp. of Munich and Freising, and created a Cardinal soon afterwards. He was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981, and elected Pope in 2005. He resigned in 2012.

Benedict has published on a wide range of subjects since the 1950s, continuing to do so in a personal capacity after becoming Pope. Concern for the liturgy and for the relationship of theology to philosophy are among his principal themes, together with an interest in the historical development of theology. In 2005 he gave an address to the Curia arguing that the Second Vatican Council should be seen not as a new start in the life of the RC Church, but as a reform in continuity with what had gone before. He advocated a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ and criticised a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’. He issued a series of encyclicals beginning in 2005, of which the third, ‘Caritas in Veritate’ (2009), treats of Catholic Social teaching with a focus on the institutional, political elements of charity. In 2007, by ‘Summorum Pontificum’, he extended permission to use the missal current in 1962 (before the Second Vatican Council, the so-called Tridentine Mass); in 2009, by the Apostolic Constitution ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus’, he created the new structure of the Personal Ordinariate to preserve elements of the Anglican tradition within the RC Church.