IN WHAT CAME as a huge surprise, Pope Benedict XVI announced yesterday morning that he is to step down as Pope.
Saying that he is stepping down from the role due to his age and deteriorating health, his decision came after almost eight years as the head of the Catholic Church.
During his seven years in power, the pontiff faced rumours about his failing health; making decisions on how to deal with the many church sex abuse scandals; and leading Roman Catholics in a changing world.
- Pope Benedict XVI was elected to the papacy in 2005 at the age of 78. Born Joseph Ratzinger in Marktl am Inn, Germany, in 1927, he was ordained as a priest in 1951.
- On 8 April 2005, he read the homily at Pope John Paul II’s funeral. On 28 April he was formally installed as Pope in an open-air Mass in St Peter’s Square in Rome.
The newly-elected Pope waves from a balcony at the Vatican. Pic: Andrew Medichini/AP/Press Association Images
- That year the pope also began downsizing the Roman Curia. He wrote the first half of his first of three encyclicals in 2005, Deus Caritas Est, this year, but it was released in 2007.
- That year also saw him listing ways to combat the spread of HIV.
- The new Pope’s health was under question, as he had been unwell leading up to his election, and in May of that year it was revealed he had suffered another mild stroke.
- The Pope invoked controversy after delivering a lecture that mentioned Islam while at the University of Regensburg in Germany on 12 September 2006. He later apologised for offending Muslims, after a quote from a 14th Century Christian emporer mentioned Mohammed in a negative sense.
- In November of that year it was said that he had undergone a routine heart examination, with rumours abounding that he had been prepared for a future bypass operation.
- In June of that year, a man leaped over a barrier and threw himself towards the pope’s vehicle, but did not manage to reach the Pope.
- In July, he issued the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which declared that the Tridentine Mass was to be more easily permitted, with people just having to seek permission from their local priest. This came following the request of the faithful and Pope Benedict assuaged fears that it would entail a reversal of the Second Vatican Council.
- The pope also condemned excessive consumerism in 2007.
- World Youth Day 2008 took place in Sydney that year, and the Pope travelled to Australia for the event. During his trip he apologised for child sex abuse by members of the clergy in that country.
- In December he spoke to the Roman Curia about gender and gender roles, in a move that was seen as an attack on homosexuality. Hes message was condemned by activists.
- 2008 also saw his first visit to the USA, where he met with President George W Bush during a visit to the White House. He also met with Radhika Ramana Dasa, a hindu scholar, during his visit.
- In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI visited Israel on what was the third papal visit to that country. His trip included a visit to the country’s Holocaust memorial.
- The Pope broke his wrist while on holiday in the Alps this year.
- On 24 December 2009, at a Christmas Eve mass, a woman named Susanna Maiolo jumped a barrier in an attempt to reach the Pope as he walked inside St Peter’s Basilica. He fell but was not injured, although a French Cardinal was taken to hospital with a broken hip following the incident.
- In 2010 the Pope visited Britain, meeting Prime Minister of England, David Cameron. Five people were arrested for allegedly planning to harm the Pope during his short visit.
Pic: Martin Cleaver/AP/Press Association Images
- In March of that year, he wrote a letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland on sexual abuse. In it, he said he had been “deeply disturbed” by the sexual abuse of children and young people by members of the church in Ireland, and had written the letter “to express my closeness to you and to propose a path of healing, renewal and preparation”. He also enclosed a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland.
December 2011: Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing during the Angelus prayer from his studio overlooking St. Peter’s square. Pic: AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca
- In April 2011, he made history by calling astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
- Perhaps in preparation for the launch of his Twitter account the following year, the Pope sent his first tweet from an iPad in June of 2011.
- One of his major tasks this year was the beatification of his predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II, on 1 May 2011.
- In August 2011, Pope Benedict accused modern society of suffering from ‘amnesia’ about God, as he travelled to Spain for a world youth festival.
- He spoke out that November about sex abuse, describing it as “a scourge which affects every level of society”, saying that the church and all other institutions should be held to “exacting standards” in their response to the sexual abuse of children.
- There were reports in December that the Pope was “tired” and “weak”, and that his health had declined over the previous year and a half.
- On 28 March of last year, the Pope met Cuban leader Fidel Castro, as photographed by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano below. They met in Havana during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba.
Pic: AP Photo/Osservatore Romano
- The official Twitter account for the Pope, @Pontifex, was launched in December.
- The official website was attacked by Anonymous in March
- The Pope spoke out about abortion, conception and marriage, and gay marriage that year.
- A criminal probe – a rare thing in the Vatican – was launched in March 2012 into the leaks of confidential documents that alleged corruption and financial mismanagement.
Paolo Gabriele, bottom left, with the Pope in May 2012. Pic: Andrew Medichini/AP/Press Association Images
- In May of 2012, the Pope’s butler was arrested by Vatican Police during an investigation into allegations that confidential documents and letters from the pontiff’s private study were leaked to newspapers. Paolo Gabriele was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing secret documents.
- In November, the Pope launched the final volume in his biography of Jesus’ life.
- In a message to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, which was held in Dublin’s Croke Park, he said that clerical abuse “remains a mystery” and that the abuse undermined the credibility of the Church’s message.
- In July, he fired a Slovak bishop for apparently mismanaging his diocese, which was seen as a rare show of papal power over his bishops.
- 2012 was also the year that people believed the Mayan calendar predicted Doomdsay would fall – leading the Pope to call on the faithful to ignore the warnings.
- In early January of this year, Pope Benedict criticised legal efforts around the world to decriminalise abortion, while at a gathering of diplomats accredited to the Holy See. The Pope described any law that decriminalised abortion as “gravely contrary to the moral law”.
- Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, citing his advanced age and deteriorating health, on 11 February 2013. His resignation will be effective on 28 February 2013.
- The last pontifex to step down was Pope Gregory XII during the 1400s.