Pope Benedict XVI

Pope of Vatican City

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  • In-Country Power
  • International Power
  • Respect
  • Military Strength
  • Intelligence
  • Special Skill: Holy Rolling

Official Stats

  • Official Title: Pope
  • Government: Theocracy
  • Years Left in Office: Life
  • Political Classification: Right
  • Education: Theological Studies
  • Age: 97 (born April 16, 1927)

Pope Benedict XVI Facts and Information

Important Points

  • The Pope is the head honcho of the Catholic faith, which has 1.2 billion adherents worldwide.
  • To believers, the Pope is the ultimate authority and interpreter of their faith, and essentially a spokesman for the Almighty
  • Pope Benedict has championed a program of simplicity and universality, and worked to reach out to other religions
  • The Pope is contending with declining numbers of adherents and challenges from the secular, material world
  • The Pope is the only world leader that has a vehicle named after him.

The Rundown

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Plaid Avenger is with thee! Time to talk about the little man with the biggest hat who is the ruler of the smallest state on the planet! Of course I am referring to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI of Vatican City, the 265th and current head of the Catholic Church! Wearing the crown of the city-state is of the least consequence when it comes to his real power and influence; it is the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide that think that the Pope is the mouthpiece and spokesman for Jesus that really makes this man a force to be reckoned with, and a serious character on the world stage. So what is up with the ‘Papa’?

Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Alois Ratzinger (wow what a name change!), has been leader of the Catholic Church since his election April 19, 2005. He’s pretty much the head honcho of all Catholics around the world! One of the oldest men to ever be elected as Pope, he is currently 85 years old and will be the leader of the Catholic Church until his death…and not to depress the Pope, but average Italian life span for males is 79 years, so Papa is on borrowed time already. But he has excellent health care, and a pretty pious lifestyle, so he may go another decade for all we know. But enough on death, let’s start with his life….

Born on April 16, 1927 in Germany, Joseph grew up in a very simple family, leading a very simple life…that is, they were poor. His dad was basically a beat cop, and his mom worked at home to raise him and his siblings. At age five he and a bunch of other kindergartners welcomed Cardinal Archbishop of Munich with flowers. Apparently, after seeing Cardinal Archbishop‘s attire, he wanted to become a Cardinal Archbishop himself….so he initially chose his profession based on fashion (well, I’m in the same boat, so I can’t fault him for that.)  Unfortunately, before his wardrobe dreams could come true, he was forced to join the Hitler Youth at age fourteen, and later drafted into the German Army during the war. He hated what Hitler was doing (props for that) and peaced-out deserted, ending up in an American POW camp in 1945.

Soon after his release, he enrolled at a seminary and studied theology and philosophy with his brother…they really put the ‘brother’ in brotherly love…and both were ordained as priests in June of 1951. Joe continued with his studies in theology and got his doctorate in 1953, and started an academic career as a university theologian, teaching in several universities. Thus, this Pope is a certified full-on Professor. Professor Pope! He also wrote many articles and books, the best example being Introduction to Christianity, which explains the Pope’s obligation to listening to members of the church. How prophetic of Joe to be writing something like that decades before he himself would rise to the position himself. Well, being prophetic is part of the job description I guess.

But we’re getting distracted…back to a long time ago…In 1977 Joseph was appointed as Archbishop of Munich and Freising, then in the same year he was ordained Bishop. He was rising up the ranks, fast. The following year he climbed the ladder again and became Cardinal Priest…sweet Jesus, I’m getting confused with all these holy titles! Apparently Joe was getting overwhelmed with all the titles too, and in 1982 he resigned his position as Archbishop, and then in 1998 became Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni. Throughout this time he continued to teach, and in 1998 he moved up to Vice-Dean of the College and full Dean in 2002. Enough of the titular action! Let’s get this guy to the pole position of Pope!

In 2005, TIME magazine quoted Vatican sources hinting Joseph was at the top of the list for the successor to Pope John Paul II. This was a logical succession, since Cardinal Ratzinger was something of a theological right-hand-man to John-Paul already, and thus they shared most views and stances on issues of the day as well as the future of the Catholic Church. 

How right they were! Lo and behold, on April 8, 2005 Pope John Paul VI passed away. Thousands of people attended his funeral, and people grieved all around the world. At the time, Joseph held the title of Cardinal, and participated in the papal conclave to decide who would be the next Pope. They spent two days in one room together without food and water…TWO days? What happened to forty days and forty nights? Wait, that was the arc action I am thinking of. Then after three rounds of voting accompanied by the traditional burning of the ballots (looking for white smoke is a sign of agreement, black smoke means a big NO where someone, even just one cardinal, doesn’t agree) they decided on Ratzinger and he was announced as the next official Pope!

He chose the name Benedict, in honor of Pope Benedict XV, a strong advocate of peace during World War One. It actually means “the blessed” in Latin. Latin: you know, the dead language. At his Papal Inauguration on April 24, he greeted everyone in a speech of gratitude “Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with insufficient instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help, let us move forward. The Lord will help us, and Mary, His Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.”

Okay pappy, enough of the speeches, time to get to work. What has Pope Benedict been up to since getting the top Catholic job? So far in his papacy (lol, I just love saying the word “papacy”) Benedict has championed a program of simplicity and universality. He has been vocalizing his belief in the importance of the rudimentary pillars of the Christian faith.  Like many men of the cloth, in modern times, Benedict XVI faces a great challenge…that being MODERN TIMES!  The global religion of dollars is a fierce competitor and the Church swims upstream against the current of secularism, especially in the developed first world.  Consequently, the Pope denounces the greed that is leading the world’s youth down the “dead end streets of consumerism.”  Good for him. I’m sure all those young Wall Street crooks were listening close to that message…from their yachts.

Benedict’s teachings have a rather universal appeal as well.  He speaks of Christianity as a religion of logos, or creative reason, and being open to rationality.  He denounces the “dictatorship of relativism,” that allows fractioned viewpoints to become staunch ideology, and often leads to misunderstanding and violence.  He regularly reaches out to other sects of Christianity for “renewed brotherhood” and also has opted for a path of open communication and dialogue to reach out to other religions as well. 

This could be very important on the world stage.  In the Judaic faith, for example, his diplomacy has been fairly well received.  Benedict’s appreciation of Jewish history, especially the experience of the Second World War, is noted.  Jewish clergymen and statesmen alike are hoping that the Pope will be an active agent against anti-Semitism in the world.  The Pope’s could therefore be very influential in places of global tension, like Israel, where conflicting ideologies create very real social dilemmas.  Benedict also organized the “First Meeting of the Catholic-Muslim Forum” in November 2008, for which he invited prominent Muslim scholars and religious leaders to meet with him in Rome. He has even made attempts to open relations with China, with whom the Vatican has encountered conflict in the recent past. So he is putting himself and the Church out there in a global way quite intentionally…

However, when you put yourself out there, you will face the inevitable controversies.  In fact stirred some resentful feelings from Muslims during a speech at a German university in 2006 when he quoted a Christian Byzantine emperor who denounced Muhammad’s orders to “spread by the sword” his teachings.  Leaders of Islam believed that Benedict misrepresented their religion as having violent tendencies, and reproached him accordingly, to which he apologized.

In May 2007, the Pope received criticisms from President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and organizations in Ecuador following a statement he made claiming that the natives of South America had been “silently longing” for the introduction of the Christian faith by colonizers. Due to the level of brutality and genocide that South American peoples were subjected to by their colonizers, including devout members of the Church, the Pope’s statement caused outrage and resulted in yet another apology by His Holiness.

The Pope has also drawn the ire of gay rights activists by expressed his belief that homosexuality is an objective disorder, but does not condone homophobic attacks…in fact he actually calls for condemnation of such attacks from the Church when they occur. He also stands by the continued condemnation of the use of condemns, and has to continue to deal with the fall-out from all the sex scandals that have plagued the Church for decades, so there is always ample amounts of hate directed toward the Catholic hierarchy, of which Benedict has to answer to as their top gun. And there are always allegations of internal corruption, as their have been for centuries: the latest shoe to drop in 2012 consisted of the Pope’s personal butler stealing documents and leaking memos to reporters about monetary pay-offs to the Church….the fun never ends for this guy!

But let’s end on an angelic high note: Essentially, in a world full of ignorant fray, Pope Benedict XVI is diligently trying to be a cool cat, that religious institutions and state apparatuses might do what in the hell they are meant to do, namely, make life better for people. While the Pope may only have official leadership over the world’s smallest country, both in terms of area and population, his influence base stretches into almost every other country on the planet that contains part of his 1.2 billion strong Catholic flock. 

Wherever there is a Christian following, especially of the Catholic denomination, and a church in which they gather, he has unsurpassable authority and astronomical levels of influence. This is why the person in the papal office holds such importance in the rest of the world and the politics around which it revolves. He is the highest cleric in a faith comprising 1/5th of the world’s population; he has the power of excommunication, (that’s the ultimate shit-list!),  he commands a sovereign nation inside the city of Rome, and he rocks the most awesomely funny hats in style. To top it all off: the Popemobile.  Nuff said.

Posted August 15, 2012

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