Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Pope Benedict was a powerful, flawed leader in turbulent times

By David Gibson

31 Dec 2022 · 7 min read

Editor's Note

Pope Benedict was never a crowd-pleaser, according to Foreign Policy's concise review of his life. Indeed, he never coveted the position and on his death he remains a divisive figure among Catholics.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was regarded as one of the most brilliant theologians of the last century and one of the most powerful churchmen of the last 50 years. That unusual mixture of great erudition and enormous authority did not serve him well, however, and may have contributed to a personal hubris that clouds his legacy.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, ascending to the highest position in the Roman Catholic Church because he represented, for many Catholic cardinals as well as their followers, conservative values and stability during a time of rapid liberalization and change. But he came to oversee a church plagued by continuing sexual abuse revelations and cover-ups, as well as financial and other corrosive scandals.

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