Pope Benedict XVI

TIMELINE: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, his papacy and retirement


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TIMELINE: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, his papacy and retirement

CATHOLIC CHURCH. File photo shows Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, waves from a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, on April 19, 2005.

Max Rossi/Reuters

Look back at some of the major events of the ministry and retirement of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died on Saturday, December 31.

Following are some of the major events of the ministry and his retirement.


April 19 – German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, is elected to succeed Pope John Paul II as the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He chooses the name Benedict XVI.


September 9 to 14 – The pope visits his Bavarian homeland. He sparks protests from the Muslim world with a speech quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said Islam had only brought evil to the world and was spread by the sword. Days later, Benedict says he was “deeply sorry” about Muslim reaction to his speech, which he says was misunderstood.

November 28 to December 1 – Papal trip to Turkey is a fence-mending visit including prayers with Istanbul’s grand mufti facing Mecca at the city’s Blue Mosque.


July 7 – Benedict issues a declaration allowing the old Latin Mass to be celebrated more widely, a demand of church traditionalists.


February 5 – He changes a Latin prayer for Good Friday services by traditionalist Catholics, deleting a reference to Jews and their “blindness” but still calling for them to accept Jesus.


January 24 – The pope causes uproar by lifting excommunications of four ultra-traditionalist bishops, including a Holocaust denier.


November 6 – Benedict arrives in Spain for a two-day visit. He attacks abortion and same-sex marriage, recently legalized in Spain, in a Mass to consecrate Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia church in another pointed criticism of what he called Spain’s “aggressive secularism.”


July 25 – The Vatican recalls its ambassador to Ireland following an unprecedented rebuke of the Holy See by the Irish parliament in the wake of a report that accused church authorities of covering up sexual abuse.


Through the year, Benedict’s papacy is shaken by a scandal dubbed “Vatileaks” in which leaked documents show infighting among Benedict’s aides and general dysfunction at the heart of the Church’s central administration, known as the Curia. The scandal exposes financial corruption and allegations about the existence of a so-called “gay lobby” that used blackmail to protect its members.

October 6 – A Vatican court finds Benedict’s former butler guilty of stealing sensitive documents and sentences him to a year and a half in prison. Paolo Gabriele said he had acted out of “visceral” love for the Roman Catholic Church and the pope. Benedict later pardoned Gabriele and the Vatican later found him a job in a hospital. Gabriele died in 2020.


February 11 – Benedict announces his intention to resign, saying he no longer has the physical and mental strength to run the Church. The surprise announcement shocks a meeting of cardinals.

February 28 – Benedict formally steps down, moving temporarily to the papal summer residence south of Rome, and later moving to a former convent inside the Vatican gardens, with his secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, and other aides and medical staff.


January 20 – An independent report in Germany alleges Benedict failed to act against four cases of sexual abuse in his archdiocese when he was Archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982. Benedict later acknowledges errors occurred and asks for forgiveness.

December 31 – Benedict dies in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican where he had lived since his resignation.

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