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Scott P. Richert

The Anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's Election

By April 19, 2013

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Three days ago, on April 16, we celebrated an event that wasn't unprecedented but is certainly rare—indeed, it hasn't been observed in over 700 years: the birthday of a retired pope.Pope Benedict XVI at the announcement of his election. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) And now we observe another rare event: the anniversary of the election of that same Pope Emeritus.

Eight years ago today, on April 19, 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger entered the second day of the conclave convened after the death of Pope John Paul II, and emerged as the successor of the man he had served faithfully for almost a quarter of a century. In a fascinating thread tying the 2005 conclave to the 2013 one, Pope Benedict XVI was elected after Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio begged the cardinal-electors who had been voting for him to cast their votes for Cardinal Ratzinger instead. (Another detail from the 2005 conclave is fascinating if true: Respected Italian Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli has reported that Cardinal Ratzinger entered the 2005 conclave intending to support the man who would become Pope Francis.)

In 2005, most Vatican watchers, and perhaps even a majority of the cardinal-electors, expected Pope Benedict to be a "transitional pope." That turned out to be true, though not in the way that they meant it. They thought that Pope Benedict would mark time, perhaps consolidating the legacy of Pope John Paul II, but certainly not extending it very far, much less creating a legacy of his own.

They were wrong. As I wrote in the wake of Pope Benedict's announcement of his resignation, "he has thrown himself enthusiastically into his pontificate, accomplishing more in just under eight years than many other popes have in twice that long."

On the seventh anniversary of Pope Benedict's election, I summarized those accomplishments, which included at that time

three encyclicals; over a thousand homilies and addresses; three major books; over 20 trips abroad; the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass as one of the two forms of the Roman Rite; the revised English translation of the Novus Ordo; the establishment of procedures to bring Anglicans back into the Catholic Church; overtures to the Orthodox Churches; the lifting of the excommunications on the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X and the patient pursuit of full unity between the SSPX and Rome.

And those were only the high points. It's worth looking at the entire list, especially since the secular media has, since Pope Benedict's resignation, dared to proclaim his pontificate a "failure."

I have no hesitation in predicting that, 50 years from now (or perhaps even sooner), both Catholics and non-Catholics alike will look back at the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and see it as a turning point in the Catholic Church, the time in which the "spirit of Vatican II" was finally laid to rest in favor of the hermeneutic of continuity; in which the liturgical excesses of the 70's and 80's were reined it, and dignity restored to the Novus Ordo; in which great strides were made in Christian unity, in part (especially with regard to the Orthodox) because of the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass and the clarification of the Church's teaching on ecclesiology; in which the scourge of clerical sexual abuse was dealt with once and for all, allowing the Church to get on with the business of saving souls.

The Catholic Church is stronger today than at any other point in my lifetime (I was born in 1968). And that is in no small part the result of the actions of Pope Benedict XVI. Let us pause today, on this anniversary of his election, and thank him for that.

(Pope Benedict XVI at the announcement of his election. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Coverage of Previous Anniversaries of Pope Benedict's Election:

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April 20, 2013 at 6:15 am
(1) A P O'Beachain says:

The Holy Spirit guides the Church and uses each Pope to highlight different aspects of Her Gospel Journey as needed. We can see the progress since Leo XIII who stated the Social Gospel principles and their renewal and application from his day until now. Pius XII with biblical studies renewal and setting the stage for Vatican 11, liturgical renewal, JXXX11 for the Council and happy joy and humanness, and peace, Paul V1 for world travel, JP1 for happy joy again, JP11 for global evangelisation, BXV1 for solid scholarship and gentlemanly leadership, now Francis for getting out of the sacristy into the street and down to earth practical love and more happy joy. They are not political leaders swinging from Left to Right but part of a continuum, a flow, leaders of a living body. So called leftist and rightist loud mouths grab headlines and side-track the public’s attention and the global media grind away with their own axes.

April 21, 2013 at 7:33 am
(2) Catharina says:

I have not a single doubt that Benedict XVI was a great pope. One wonders if it is possible to research how many lapsed Catholics, lapsed Protestants, agnostics, even atheists became Catholics due to his brilliant (but humble) mind, his clarity of thinking,his joy in the faith, his witness as a loving but not weak Christian, and last but not least, his sense of beauty and reverence in liturgical worship, the lack of which in previous decades drovethousands uponthousands of Catholics and non-Catholics out of their churches.

Yes, history will prove him to be the real “modern” pope, in tune with the deepest needs of faltering humanity in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Thank you for reminding us of that. Not that I need reminding. I am one of the thousands who joined the Catholic Church because of Benedict XVI.

June 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm
(3) Elaine says:

Scott – why do you think then Cardinal Bergoglio begged the cardinal-elector who had been voting for him to vote for Cardinal Ratziner instead in 2005?

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