News / Europe

    Pope Benedict XVI's Legacy Mixed

    Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square, at the Vatican October 24, 2012.
    Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square, at the Vatican October 24, 2012.
    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope on April 19th, 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II. Ratzinger took the name of Benedict XVI and his papacy lasted almost eight years.  He resigned last month, the first pope to do so in 600 years, and experts say he leaves a mixed legacy.

    Brennan Pursell, one of Benedict’s biographers, said he will be remembered first and foremost as a teacher.

    “His legacy as pope will survive in his writings, above all, and his catechesis [religious/faith instruction], his encyclicals [papal letters], his various documents,” he said. “And for people who just read what's online, they can get a sense of the awesome extent of this man’s contribution to church teaching.”

    Father Thomas Reece at Georgetown University, said Benedict “had very strong ideas about church doctrine, orthodoxy, church traditions.  He was not afraid to go after priests and religious and theologians who disagreed with him - basically try to silence them.”

    Was Benedict a Conservative Pope?

    Some experts have labeled Pope Benedict a “conservative” on such issues as contraception, gay marriages, stem cell research and married priests.

    But Father Robert Barron, Rector of Mundelian Seminary in Chicago, said you cannot use political labels to describe the papacy.

    “It’s not as though popes are shifting perspective on these things and we now get a liberal pope who says this and a conservative pope who says that,” said Father Barron.  “He was teaching what John Paul the Second taught, what Pope Paul VI taught, what John XXIII taught, what Pius XII taught.  There really wasn’t anything that was ‘right-wing’ about Benedict. He was in line with the great moral and doctrinal teaching of the church.”

    Benedict Addresses Sex Abuse Scandal

    Benedict’s papacy was rocked by the child sex-abuse scandal that surfaced during the last few years of John Paul II's papacy.

    Father Barron said that was the time when Joseph Ratzinger was the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

    “I have heard from people here in Chicago, where I am based, people who were involved in the lay board that was investigating all this business, that Ratzinger was the one in Rome they trusted the most - who listened to them, who got [understood] the problem,” said Father Barron.  "Beginning in 2001, he would have gotten all these dossiers, he would have read all these stories.  Anyone that knew him, they have all said the same thing, that he was disgusted by what he read.  And it sort of woke him up to the gravity of the situation.  And then he did address it pretty aggressively during the years that he was head of the CDF - and then since becoming pope.”

    Analysts said he instituted quicker procedures to expel from the priesthood those involved in the sex-abuse scandal.  Benedict also apologized for the abuse and met with some of the victims.

    Other Miscues Mark Benedict’s Papacy

    But Benedict’s papacy was also marked by several other events.  During a speech in Regensburg in September 2006, he quoted a Byzantine emperor, stating what for some Muslims was seen as an attack on Islam.  That brought protests from the Muslim world.  Later on he went to Turkey, a trip that included prayers with Istanbul’s grand mufti at the city’s Blue Mosque.

    In 2009, Benedict provoked outrage when he lifted the excommunication of four ultra-traditionalist bishops, including one who denied the holocaust.

    And just last October, Benedict’s butler was convicted of stealing boxes of sensitive and confidential documents from the papal chambers, providing them to newspapers. Benedict ultimately pardoned his valet.

    All those examples, said many experts, were public-relations disasters.

    Last month, Benedict XVI resigned, saying he did not have the strength to go on as pontiff.

    Resignation Very Much Part of Benedict’s Legacy

    George Ferzoco, professor of theology at Bristol University in England, said his decision is very much part of his legacy.

    “The one that will have the greatest lasting effect, I believe, for the foreseeable future, certainly for the next few centuries, is that each and every time that a pope is beginning to show signs of old age, the whispers will begin immediately, "Will he do as Benedict did and avoid a slow physical decline that could affect not only his health, but the well-being of the church, and step down?”

    For the next few months, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will live in Castel Gandolfo, the popes’ summer home outside Rome.  He will then move to a convent that is being refurbished in the Vatican, where he plans to devote his life to prayer and writing.

    Andre de Nesnera

    Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.