PHOTOS: Key moments from Benedict XVI’s papacy

PHOTOS: Key moments from Benedict XVI’s papacy

Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany in 2005. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Dec 31, 2022 / 03:45 am (CNA).

Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy as told through photos.


Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was elected the 265th pope of the Catholic Church on April 19, 2005, the second day of the conclave. He took the name Benedict XVI.

From the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, the German theologian uttered his first words as pope: “Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble laborer 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.”

Pope Benedict XVI appears for the first time on the benediction loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, following the announcement of his election in the conclave April 19, 2005. Vatican Media.

Inaugural Mass

Benedict XVI was formally installed as pope and the bishop of Rome at a public Mass on April 24, 2005, in St. Peter’s Square.

At this Mass, attended by an estimated 350,000 people, Benedict received the white wool pallium, a symbol of the yoke of Christ worn by bishops, and the papal fisherman’s ring.

Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square during his inaugural Mass on April 24, 2005. Vatican Media.

World Youth Day in Cologne

Pope Benedict XVI’s second trip as pontiff, and first international journey, was to his home country of Germany for the 20th World Youth Day, held in Cologne.

From Aug. 18–21, 2005, the pope met German authorities, visited a Jewish synagogue, and celebrated Mass for the international youth festival founded by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, Aug. 18, 2005. Vatican MediaPope Benedict XVI returns to his homeland for his first international event since being elected pope. He participated in World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, Aug. 18–21, 2005. Vatican Media.

General audiences

Like his predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI gave a weekly public audience on Wednesday mornings. Afterward, he would greet people from around the world who came to meet him, sometimes kissing the babies held in his direction.

Pope Benedict XVI kisses a baby held by his head private secretary Archbishop Georg Ganswein. Ganswein remained Benedict’s personal secretary throughout his pontificate and retirement. Vatican Media

Visit to the United States

Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States from April 15–20, 2008. His trip included a meeting with then President George W. Bush, an address to the United Nations General Assembly, the celebration of Mass at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and Yankee Stadium in New York City, and a visit to Ground Zero in New York.

Pope Benedict XVI sees the Statue of Liberty from the air during his only visit to the United States, April 15–20, 2008. Vatican Media.Pope Benedict XVI arrives at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City during his only visit to the United States April 15–20, 2008. Vatican Media.Pope Benedict XVI meets Michael Bloomberg, then mayor of New York City, during his only visit to the United States, April 15–20, 2008. Vatican Media.

Mountain vacations

Following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, every summer, Benedict XVI took a two-week vacation in the mountains, either the Italian Alps or the Dolomites.

“I hope everyone, especially those in greatest need, will be able to take a bit of vacation to restore their physical and spiritual energy and recover a healthy contact with nature. The mountains call to mind in particular the spirit’s ascent towards the heavens, its uplifting towards the ‘high standard’ of our humanity, which daily life unfortunately tends to debase,” he said during a July 8, 2007, stay in the Dolomites.

Beginning in the summer 2010, Benedict preferred to spend his entire period of rest at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, about 16 miles southeast of Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI enjoys the mountains in northern Italy. For the first five years of his pontificate, he passed his summer vacation in the Italian Alps or Dolomites, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, John Paul II. Vatican Media.

World Youth Day in Sydney

From July 13–21, 2008, Benedict XVI traveled Down Under to Sydney, Australia, for the 21st World Youth Day.

Because of the time difference with Italy, Benedict rested for three days before beginning official appointments. In addition to celebrating an open-air Mass for World Youth Day, during the trip the pope made a historic apology for child sexual abuse in St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Pope Benedict XVI meets with a team at the Kenthurst Study Centre, where he met a koala and other iconic Australian animals during World Youth Day in Sydney, July 12–21, 2008. Vatican Media.Pope Benedict XVI welcomes thousands to the start of World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, July 12–21, 2008. Vatican Media.

Wrist fracture

On July 16, 2009, at 82 years old, Benedict XVI fell and fractured his right wrist while staying at a vacation chalet in the Italian Alps.

He underwent a 20-minute surgery with local anesthesia to repair the injured wrist and wore a cast for about a month afterward.

Pope Benedict XVI with a cast on his right wrist, which he fractured in a fall July 16, 2009, while on vacation in the Italian Alps. Vatican Media.

Santiago de Compostela

Benedict XVI visited Santiago de Compostela, the city in Spain that is home to the Shrine of St. James and the destination of the world-famous “Camino de Santiago” (or “Way of St. James”) pilgrimage, during the first of his two visits to Spain.

During the Nov. 6–7, 2010, trip, he also traveled to Barcelona to consecrate the Sagrada Família church, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí.

Pope Benedict XVI visits the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela during a Nov. 6–7, 2010, visit to Spain, which also included a visit to Barcelona. Vatican Media.

World Youth Day in Madrid

The following year, Benedict XVI again visited Spain, this time for World Youth Day in Madrid Aug. 18–21, 2011.

Pope Benedict XVI addresses volunteers of World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain, Aug. 21, 2011. Vatican Media.Pope Benedict greets the faithful during World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, Aug. 16–21, 2011. Vatican Media.

Visit to Benin

The pope visited Benin, a country in western Africa, from Nov. 18–20, 2011. It was the 23rd of 25 international trips Benedict XVI took during his eight-year pontificate.

Pope Benedict XVI greets the thousands who gathered for Mass at the Friendship Stadium in Cotonou during his visit to Benin Nov. 18–20, 2011. Vatican Media.

Visit to Mexico

A few weeks before his 85th birthday, Pope Benedict XVI visited the city of León in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, from March 23–26, 2012.

Pope Benedict XVI greets young people as he arrives in Mexico during a weeklong trip to Mexico and Cuba March 23–29, 2012. Vatican Media.

Visit to Cuba

Benedict landed in Cuba on March 26, 2012, after visiting Mexico. He traveled to the cities of Santiago de Cuba and Havana 14 years after the landmark visit of John Paul II.

His appointments included a visit to the Shrine of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre and a private meeting with Fidel Castro, which took place after he said Mass in Havana’s Revolutionary Square.

Pope Benedict XVI meets with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro during his visit to Cuba March 18, 2012. Vatican Media.

Public audiences

Wherever he traveled, the pope would take time to personally greet some of the many people who had come to see him. These meetings often included encounters such as this touching moment with a young boy.

A child touches Pope Benedict XVI on the cheek as he greets pilgrims. Vatican Media.

Visit to Lebanon

Benedict XVI’s final foreign trip was to Lebanon on Sept. 14–16, 2012, where he promulgated his post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Middle East, following the 2010 Synod on the Middle East.

Pope Benedict XVI visited the Melkite Greek Catholic Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa, where he signed his post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente” during a trip to Lebanon Sept. 14, 2012. Vatican Media.Pope Benedict XVI plants a sapling Lebanese cedar tree in the gardens of the presidential palace with Lebanon’s then President Michel Sleiman during a visit to Lebanon Sept. 15, 2012. Vatican Media.

Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

The pope made several visits to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of the four major basilicas in Rome, during his pontificate. Every year in January, he celebrated ecumenical vespers with other Christian leaders at the important church to mark the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Pope Benedict XVI leads an ecumenical vespers service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Jan. 25, 2013. The service marked the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Vatican Media.

Resignation announcement

On Feb. 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world with the surprise announcement of his intent to resign. He delivered the news in Latin to cardinals gathered at the Vatican for a consistory.

Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to resign the papacy during a meeting of cardinals Feb. 11, 2013. The surprise announcement, which he made in Latin, took place in the Hall of the Consistory in the Vatican’s apostolic palace. Vatican Media.

Castel Gandolfo

On Feb. 28, 2013, the day of his resignation, Benedict XVI took the Vatican helicopter from Rome to Castel Gandolfo for his final time as pope. He officially resigned the papacy at 8 p.m. local time from the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo.

During his pontificate, Benedict XVI would spend his summers at the Pontifical Villas in Castel Gandolfo, which was conceded to the Holy See as an extraterritorial possession under the Lateran Pact of 1929.

The villa had served as the papal summer residence since the reign of Pope Urban VIII during the 17th century.

Pope Benedict XVI aboard a helicopter at the Vatican’s heliport. Benedict would take a helicopter to fly from the Vatican to the Pontifical Villas in Castel Gandolfo, where he would spend his summers. Vatican Media.

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