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Blog // Thoughts
April 21, 2005

Benedict XVI

So we have a new Pope and what is more, he chosen a name after one of the more obscure and lesser known Popes of recent history. Initially the media had focussed on the fact that Benedict XV was an outspoken pacifist during WWI. Well I guess that is good for a soundbite, but other […]

So we have a new Pope and what is more, he chosen a name after one of the more obscure and lesser known Popes of recent history. Initially the media had focussed on the fact that Benedict XV was an outspoken pacifist during WWI. Well I guess that is good for a soundbite, but other charactistics of this prior Benedict that make him an obvious conceptual predecessor for the priest formerly known as Cardinal Ratzinger.

For starters, Benedict XV was a staunchly anti-modern conservative, but less so than his predecessor Pius X (who was pretty handy with the old excommunication writ). Could this mean Ratzinger aspires to a less heavy handed, but equally hardline approach to what he sees as theological error? Hard to say given Ratzinger was such a feared potentate in his previous role (most Catholic Academics and Theological Students I spoke with had genuine fear and discomfort at the mention of his name). I like to imagine that since such a solid and uncompromising position on core doctrine has been etsablished by Ratzinger, that as Pope he will now be more concilliatory towards progressive theological thought, but I hold litle hope that will actually happen.

Benedict XV was a very European Pope, in fact he deeply mourned the impact of WWI on the fabric of Europe. Ratzinger clearly sees Europe in terms of Christendom and shares the prior Benedict’s vision of a “Christian” Europe. At a time of great debate over the nature and form of the new Europe, we can assume that the new Benedict XVI will have a great deal to say about the future of Europe.

Finally, Benedict XV was perhaps the first Global pope, particularly in terms of theological education, being very progressive in his views on replacing missionary priests with locally trained priests. If Benedict XVI really does draw from the legacy of Benedict XV, then perhaps it is here that the greatest steps forward may take place, since there is great scope for revitalising and redeveloping theological education across the globe to make it more dynamic and responsive to local needs. Expect much in this area.

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