By Bianca M. Caraza
Even before his papacy, his holiness was considered an influential and significant theologian and academic within the Church. In April of 2005 (prior to his ascension to the papacy) Time magazine named him among the top 100 most influential people in the world. His reputation is well-deserved, always a scholastic individual, his holiness speaks German, his native tongue, English, Italian, and Latin.
Early in his life, his holiness pursued the path of an academic, obtaining several degrees. According to the Vatican website, after completing seminary, he studied theology and philosophy at the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and the University of Munich. He later earned a doctorate in theology with his thesis, “People and House of God in St Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church.” Next, he wrote a dissertation on “The Theology of History in St Bonaventure,” to qualify for his professorship. He then proceeded to teach at a number of universities, including the University of Regensburg, where he acted as the Chair of dogmatics and the history of dogma.
In 1972, his holiness, along with Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac, made one of his largest contributions to the Catholic community by founding Communio, a now-international quarterly Catholic journal. In a Zenit interview with David Schindler, the journal’s current editor, he defined Communio as “seek[ing] to recover the nature of the Church as a communion of persons.” After being named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981, Cardinal Ratzinger could no longer be involved in the journal as he had once been. However, he has since has been a faithful contributor, publishing work in Communio such as his writings on the theology of the Marian doctrine and an “Introduction to Christianity,” which explains Christianity’s mission to provide a Christ-centered doctrine in light of modern times. In the aforementioned interview, Schindler spoke of his holiness as having a “childlike wonder about him,” and describing his amazing humility which “enables him to speak with such courage in defense of the truth.”
In addition to his many accomplishments, degrees, and books, his holiness has received many honorary doctorates over the years: from the Catholic University of Lima, the Faculty of Theology of the University of Wrocław in Poland, and several more. Among his many books are Charity in Truth, Maria, on the Mother of God, and Jesus of Nazareth, a three-volume series of meditations on the life of Christ and its modern day relevance to the Catholic faith. The third and final volume, The Infancy Narratives, which focuses on the childhood of the messiah, is now available from Image Books.
Thank you for reading and learning with us! We hope you’ve enjoyed our series on his holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.