Ten moments that defined Pope Benedict XVI

  • New Pope

    Benedict XVI was the oldest man to become Pope for 275 years when he succeeded John Paul II at the age of 78 in April 2005.

    Before his papacy, Joseph Ratzinger spent 24 years as a senior cardinal in the Vatican, where he rose to preside over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - once notoriously known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition.

    His papacy would bring a restating of traditionalist, conservative views, and resistance to calls for change against a backdrop of growing outrage over child abuse within the Catholic Church.

  • Across the divide

    In an effort to improve inter-religious relations, in late 2006 Benedict XVI visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, where he joined Muslim clerics in silent prayer.

    The visit was only the second papal visit to an Islamic holy site in history, and drew protests from some Islamic groups.

  • Celibacy restated

    Benedict XVI's papacy has reflected his belief that the Catholic Church should retain its core traditional, conservative values in an era of rapid change.

    In March 2007 he rejected tentative calls for a debate over the issue of clerical celibacy by stating that abstinence "remains obligatory" for Roman Catholic priests.

    He went on to reaffirm the ban on Communion for divorced Catholics who remarry, on abortion, euthanasia, and gay partnerships, which he said were "not negotiable".

  • Holocaust remembered

    On a visit to Austria in September 2007, Pope Benedict paid tribute to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust at a memorial in Vienna.

    The pontiff, who grew up in the neighbouring German province of Bavaria, expressed his "sadness, repentance and friendship" towards the Jewish people.

    A few months later the Pope - who spent time in the Nazi Hitler Youth during his childhood - spoke about growing up under the "monster" of Nazism.

  • Abuse apology

    In July 2008 the Pope apologised for the sexual abuse of children by some Catholic priests.

    In a speech to a gathering of bishops in Sydney, assembled for the Catholic World Youth Day, the Pope described "the shame we have all felt", and called for abusers to face justice.

  • Pope attacked

    A shocking incident on Christmas Eve 2009 saw the Pope knocked to the ground by a woman shortly before celebrating Mass in St Peter's Basilica.

    The woman - later named as Susanna Maiolo and described as "mentally unstable" - was detained by security officials, who said they had recognised her from an attempt to grab the Pope a year earlier.

    The shaken Pope recovered to celebrate Mass, but the incident prompted an urgent review of Vatican security.

  • Irish apology

    Amid continuing revelations of institutionalised paedophilia within the Catholic Church, in March 2010 Pope Benedict took the unprecedented step of writing a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics in which he acknowledged and apologised to those who had "suffered grievously".

    The letter went on to "openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel", and said that those guilty of abuse must "answer before God".

    The apology fell short of demands from some victim groups, who had urged for an admission that abuse was systematically covered up by the church.

  • UK visit

    Almost 30 years after the last papal visit, in September 2010 Pope Benedict visited the UK, drawing crowds of thousands of people.

    In Scotland, about 125,000 lined the streets of Edinburgh to witness a parade celebrating Scotland's Christian history. Another 65,000 people attended a ticketed mass in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park.

    The visit concluded with visits to London and Birmingham, where Pope Benedict beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman in the city's Cofton Park.

  • The social Pope

    Defying his conservative image, December 2012 saw Pope Benedict extend his remit to social media with the launch of the account @pontifex.

    Media adviser Greg Burke said the Pope wanted to "reach out to everyone" with the Twitter account, which would be available in eight different languages.

  • Resignation shock

    On Monday 11 February, Pope Benedict stunned the world by announcing that he would step down as pontiff within two weeks, the first papal resignation in almost 600 years.

    In his resignation statement the 85-year-old Pope said that having "repeatedly examined my conscience... I have come to the certainty that my strengths are no longer suited to the adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry".

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