The sad announcement that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has died is world news. Although he no longer occupied the See of Peter, the man who led the Catholic Church for 8 years from 2005 to 2013 remained an important figure for those within the Church and outside.
At the same time, his death is a cause for confusion both within and without. Were he the sitting Pope, his passing would prompt much more than passing commentary. It would be a major geopolitical moment outside the Church and point toward the changing of the guard inside.
As a Pope Emeritus, a retired Pope so to speak, his successor is already in place since he resigned in 2013 citing old age, he became the first pope in 600 years to step down from the role. With that, there is none of the speculation as to who will take over one of the most important – and powerful – positions in the world. In that respect, the world and the commentariat, can rest easy.
Right now, many will be preparing obituaries. At this stage, they are probably already written. Joseph Ratzinger’s story, after 95 years in the mortal realm, is already written. How that story will be presented, possibly in the coming days or weeks, will vary wildly.
Characterised when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the successor to the Holy Office), as the Pope’s Rottweiller, or the Panzer Cardinal, despite eight years as Pope and the last nine as Pope Emeritus, he has largely failed to shake that perception, although perception is all that it is. Will the press be kind, will they resist the temptation to roll out old tropes and truisms that were commonplace throughout his Papacy and before?Preparing the Obituaries – Pope Benedict XVI has died – Gript