Pope Benedict Leaves Lasting Legacy As Millions Of Catholics Mourn His Loss

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Carl DeMarco Contributor
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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away at the age of 95 in Rome Saturday, leaving a lasting legacy as an architect of key Church doctrine and proponent of conservative values for many Catholics.

Benedict became the first pope in almost 600 years to resign from the papacy in 2013, paving the way for Pope Francis to be elected. He played a key role in reforming the Church during the Second Vatican Council, and his work on theology has helped inform current Church doctrine, according to religious scholars.

“One of the most consequential churchman of the last hundred years has died. Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Joseph Ratzinger) leaves a remarkable legacy in both the Church he served and in the wider society,” Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester and founder of Word on Fire ministries said in a statement. “Often pilloried by his opponents as a fire-breathing conservative, he was in fact one of the most balanced, nuanced, and stabilizing figures within the Catholic ambit.”

Born in 1927, Benedict entered into the seminary when he was just twelve years old, according to the Vatican’s official biography. He was forced to join the Nazi army during World War II, but did not see active military service.

He was officially ordained a priest in 1951, and would go on to become professor of Catholic theology at various German universities. In 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed Benedict to the position of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees all doctrinal issues or questions in the church, and in 2005 he was elected Pope.

He resigned due to his failing health, saying it impacted his ability to carry out the responsibilities of a Pope. (BREAKING: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Dead At 95)

Over the course of his life, Benedict wrote 66 books on the Catholic faith, history and teachings, which influenced countless Catholics, including Pope Francis. Benedict also played a role in the reemergence of the Traditional Latin Mass, which many American Catholics applauded.

“With deep feeling, we recall his person, so noble, so gentle,” Pope Francis said Saturday in a statement on Benedict’s death. “And we feel in the heart so much gratitude: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world.”

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN – NOVEMBER 25: Pope Benedict XVI attends a mass with newly appointed cardinals at the St. Peter’s Basilica on November 25, 2012 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Pontiff installed six new cardinals during his fifth consistory, who will be responsible for choosing his sucessor. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Under Benedict’s papacy, the church reaffirmed its stance on homosexuality, priest celibacy, and abortion.

“[Benedict] had long been worried about the tides of modernity that were threatening the faithful proclamation of Church teaching, but that were also consequently blurring a proper understanding of the human person, the encounter with Jesus Christ, and damaging Catholicism’s ability and mandate to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” Matthew Bunson, who wrote a biography of Benedict, told Fox News.

While many Catholics see Benedict as a defender of the faith, others have criticized his handling of various scandals, most notably the clergy sex abuse crisis.

“Any celebration that marks the life of abuse enablers like Benedict must end. It is past time for the Vatican to refocus on change: tell the truth about known abusive clergy, protect children and adults, and allow justice to those who have been hurt,” The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said in a statement Saturday. “Honoring Pope Benedict XVI now is not only wrong. It is shameful.”

SNAP referred to four incidents of sexual abuse that occurred in Germany while Benedict was a Bishop of Munich, of which Benedict apologized for his handling earlier this year.

Despite claims that he mishandled abuse, Benedict played a central role in aiding Pope John Paul II to reorganize the way abuse was reported, in an attempt to allow the Vatican to act more swiftly to respond to accusations.

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