New Jersey Newsroom / Past Work

Peeling Back the Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

BY CHRISTOPHER ESSNER

English: Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Squa...

English: Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square, Rome (2007). Polski: Papież Benedykt XVI podczas Audiencji Generalnej na Placu św. Piotra w Rzymie (2007). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many people, Wednesday, February 27, 2013 will come and pass with little thought. For others this will mark an extraordinary day in the history of not only the Catholic Church, but in the history of humankind. Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of the Catholic Church, is stepping down – the first time a pope has resigned in 600 years – and February 27 will mark his final public appearance as acting Pope.

Pope Benedict’s final public mass was held this past Ash Wednesday, and the Catholic faithful surrounded the church. His last public appearance, originally scheduled for Paul VI Hall, is being moved to St. Peter’s Square because of the large crowd expected, reports the Catholic News Agency. By 8:00 pm the following day the Papacy will be vacant.

The last Pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII back in 1415. The Papacy has become a symbol for many, and acts as a voice of peace and change. Pope Benedict XVI has had many memorable moments, as well as moments he may regret. Let’s take a look at the highs and lows of his time at the Vatican.

Born as Joseph Ratzinger in April of 1927, he became Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005, succeeding Pope John Paul II. Though considered a conservative in the church, much of his Papacy has been focused on inclusion and forward thinking. (Hey he even tweets)

He made the Vatican the first Carbon-Neutral state by installing solar panels and planting trees in Vatican City. He is known for trying to foster relations between the Church and other religions, though at times that relationship has been strained, as reported by the BBC.

Pope Benedict oversaw the first Catholic-Muslim forum to promote dialogue between members of both faiths.

The Sexual Abuse scandals within the Catholic Church are arguably one of the greatest controversies of the acting Pope’s tenure. The New York Times outlines the scandals in both Europe and the Americas.The Pope’s legacy on this matter will remain murky, as some feel he did not take enough action.

Msgr. Robert Wister, a professor of church history at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, believes Pope Benedict’s Previous experience serving on the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, helped him take on this enormous scandal.

“I think he was much more aggressive on the issue of sex abuse than was John Paul II,” Wister said. As head of the doctrinal office, “he was given all these accusations and judgments when there was a church trial…. That meant he had to read all this stuff, and he became disgusted.”

As recently as this past December, the Pope spoke out against same-sex marriage, a topic that has been very much in the national discussion here in the United States. Many in the LGBT community and those who support same-sex marriage feel the Pope missed an opportunity to speak out in support of equal rights for all.

Ultimately, he chose to resign over issues of health. As the world moves forward new issues face the citizens of every nation. The Papacy has become a symbol of peace for many. You need not be religious to appreciate what the position stands for.

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