Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) was one of the most influential Catholic theologians and leaders in the 20th and 21st centuries. You can teach about his life with the biography and reflection questions below.
You can also download and print the worksheet version of the biography and questions here:
Pope Benedict XVI Biography
Pope Benedict XVI was born as Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927. In his youth he experienced the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis that led to World War II. When the war was over, Ratzinger joined his brother in the seminary and the two of them were ordained priests in 1951. Ratzinger was an excellent theologian and earned a spot as a professor during the 1950s and 60s. He served as a theological consultant during the Second Vatican Council and grew in prominence as a theological expert within the Church in the years that followed. In 1977 he was appointed as an archbishop in Germany, and in 1981 the pope assigned him to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. For the next 24 years Ratzinger defended Catholic Church doctrine and became one of the best-known and influential cardinals in the world. When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, Ratzinger was elected as the pope at the age of 78. He took the name Benedict XVI in honor of the previous pope by that name and the monk Saint Benedict of Nursia. Pope Benedict XVI continued his emphasis on defending the teachings of the Catholic Church through his speeches and encyclicals during his tenure as pope. In February 2013 the aging pope shocked the world by announcing he would retire before his strength and mind began to deteriorate. Pope Francis was elected to take his place and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI retired in a monastery in Vatican City and became the longest-lived person to be pope.
Pope Benedict XVI Discussion and Reflection Questions
- Why was Pope Benedict XVI so well known before becoming pope?
- What are some of the most difficult teachings of the Catholic Church to understand?
- Pope Benedict XVI had a reputation for his strong theological beliefs. What are your
strongest beliefs about Christianity?
Download the Life of Pope Benedict XVI Biography Worksheet
Download the Pope Benedict XVI Worksheet, which includes three questions to help your students reflect on their lives in connection to the life of the pope.
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