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The German Pope - Benedict XVI | DW Documentary

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In memoriam Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
[This documentary was originally released in 2013 and has since been updated.]

On 19 April 2005 Joseph Ratzinger was elected head of the Roman Catholic Church. He took the name Benedict XVI. Critics saw him as the embodiment of emotionless dogma; supporters viewed him as guardian of the true faith.

Benedict XVI. was the first German Pope for almost 500 years and only the second Pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church to resign voluntarily. Even as a young theologian, Ratzinger, born on 16 April 1927 in the Bavarian village of Marktl am Inn, soon carved out a reputation as an outstanding scholar. He initially espoused progressive positions within the church and during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), tackled the matter of how the life of the church might be directed in the 20th century and beyond.

But at the latest in 1981, when Pope John Paul II. appointed him head of the Catholic Church’s spiritual watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he began to see himself as guardian of the church’s treasury of faith. As Pope, he denounced the ‘Marxist tendencies’ of the teachings of liberation theology in Latin America and Asia. He demanded the strict separation of church and politics. As pontifex maximus, he saw himself as less of a bridge-builder and more of a guardian of the truth. Time and time again, Pope Benedict XVI. had to respond in the name of the Catholic Church to allegations of abuse leveled at Catholic clergy. During the concluding mass of the International Year for Priests at the Vatican, the Pope issued a public apology. He remained in his post at the helm of the Holy See for eight years. But then, in the year 2013, he suddenly tendered his resignation. He felt his strengths were dwindling and "no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry”. The abdication of Benedict XVI. was the first voluntary resignation of a Pope for more than 700 years. But even in the wake of his retirement, he was haunted by the scandalous conduct of Catholic clerics. An independent report concluded that during his tenure as the Archbishop of Munich, Benedict had known about allegations of sexual misconduct against pastors in his diocese.

This documentary looks at the background to this event, which was highly significant in terms of both world and church politics and gives an insight into the life of the former theology professor, bishop and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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