“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
On December 31, 2022, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, former head of the Roman Catholic Church, passed away at age 95. During his long life, he served as a courageous defender of human dignity and was an inspiration to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Benedict was born in Germany in 1927, with the birth name Joseph Ratzinger. He was six years old when the Nazis officially took control of the country, and he developed his passion for protecting religious liberty after he witnessed Nazi soldiers beat his church’s priest. His parents were hostile to the regime, and although Ratzinger was forced to enlist in the German anti-auxiliary aircraft corps, he deserted after two years.
After the war, Ratzinger went to seminary and became a priest in 1951. He earned a doctorate degree in theology from the University of Munich in 1953, and went on to teach theology and dogma at several different universities. During this time, he also wrote several notable theses which caught the attention of the Vatican, leading to his ordination as a bishop and then cardinal in the Catholic Church.
In April of 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope and took the name Benedict. During his time as pope, Benedict made waves across the world with his teachings on servitude, human rights, and moral truth. He is most notably known for being the “father of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
The Catechism is a universally accepted summary of the teachings of the Catholic Church. It explains the church’s doctrines in a concise, understandable way, condensing thousands of years of content into one digestible volume. Because of its creation, millions of people around the world have been able to learn more about Catholic beliefs.
Pope Benedict was a man who lived to serve his neighbor. Many students in our generation grew up with him as a global figurehead. Jason Bowden, member of the Catholic Student Union at Florida State, reflected on the impact Benedict made in his life.
“As a young person in the church, Pope Benedict’s strong leadership and conviction gave me a great confidence in my faith and the positive influence of the church in the world. I always felt confident standing behind him as my leader.”
As for me, I vividly remember watching Pope Benedict on television as a child, speaking at World Youth Day in 2008.
“It is inconceivable, then, that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves — their faith — in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights,” Pope Benedict said during this speech. “The full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to the free exercise of worship but has to give due consideration to the public dimension of religion, and hence to the possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order.”
Let’s be grateful for leaders like Pope Benedict, who devoted his life to promoting international peace. We should all take a moment to reflect on what attributes make a leader great, and how we can serve our neighbors.