Pope Benedict XVI, a misunderstood man of God

Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

The German theologian and philosopher Joseph Ratzinger, who was head of the Roman Catholic Church for eight years as Pope Benedict XVI, has died at the age of 95. Benedict resigned as pontiff in 2013 citing declining physical and mental health. He had been seriously ill for some time.

Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born in the southern German state of Bavaria on 16 April 1927. He was ordained a Catholic priest on the same day as his older brother Georg in June, 1951. He was 24 years old.

After brilliant theological studies, Ratzinger was rapidly promoted to professorships at Tübingen and Ratisbonne universities, taking part in the 1962 Vatican ll Council as an expert advisor.

Barely 35 years old at the time of the council, he was widely regarded as a modernising reformer.

In 1977, Ratzinger was nominated Archbishop of Munich. In 1981 he took charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a church body based in Rome and responsible for defining and defending orthodox Catholic beliefs and traditions.

He headed the congregation for 25 years, leaving to take up the task of pontiff in succession to the Polish Pope, John-Paul II, in 2005. He was 78 years old.

Spectre of child sexual abuse

Since at least 2001 and the revelation of sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by some priests in the US city of Boston, the Catholic Church has faced a worldwide wave of accusations of misconduct by members of its celibate priesthood.

Even before his election as pope, Ratzinger had spoken of the "filth which disfigures the church," referring to global Catholicism as "a leaking vessel" in the face of widespread accusations of paedophilia.

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