Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was elected as pontiff in April 2005, at the age of 78.
Given his age, he was widely seen as a caretaker pope, a bridge to the next generation after John Paul II’s long tenure.
A strict conservative: As an aide to John Paul II, Benedict served as a strict enforcer of his conservative social doctrine. He continued to espouse a conservative doctrine after taking office himself and frequently warned of a “dictatorship of relativism.”
In his tone, demeanor and actions, Benedict was notably different from his predecessor — where John Paul wowed crowds with his mastery of numerous languages, Benedict’s influence was felt through his erudite writings and theological rigor.
As Pope, Benedict often championed a back-to-basics approach. Three of his encyclicals – letters from the Pope to Catholics around the world – were based on the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.
Church sex abuse crisis: Benedict became Pope at the height of the global sexual abuse scandal involving Catholic priests.
In 2008, he acknowledged “the shame which we have all felt” over abuse reports, and in 2010 issued new rules aimed at stopping abusive priests who he said “disfigured their ministry.”
Some believe he did more to tackle the abuse than any of his papal predecessors, while others saw his response as woefully inadequate.
Benedict came under renewed criticism in 2021 over his time as archbishop of Munich and Freising, following the publication of a Church-commissioned report into abuse by Catholic clergy there. The report found that while in the post, between 1977 and 1982, he had been informed of four cases of sexual abuse involving minors — including two that had occurred during his time in office — but failed to act.
Other controversies: The abuse crisis was one of a string of controversies to dominate Benedict’s time as pontiff, which often garnered more attention than his conciliatory actions.
In 2006, he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who called Islam “evil and inhuman” — which provoked rioting in some parts of the Muslim world and prompted Benedict to apologize — and he lifted the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop in 2009.
Benedict’s other controversies included his comments that condom distribution “increases the problem” of AIDS, and his decision to revive a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews.