20 April 2005

The Web

Behind the name: Benedict

Ironically, the same Cardinal Ratzinger who on Monday launched a scatching attack on modernism, has chosen the name of a pope who turned away from his predecessors’ anti-modernism.
On the other hand the name Benedict is also associated with the mystical tradition initiated by Saint Benedict and this could be Ratzinger’s response to the ‘dictatorship of relativism’. In fact, prior to the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican observers expected that by choosing the name Benedict the new pope would signal a subtle shift to more moderate policies.
Vatican obsrevers expected a conservative pope to choose the name Pius in the tradition of anti-modernist popes like Pius IX and Pius X. The last pope who named himself Benedict was elected in 1914. His pontificate was dominated by World War I.
Benedict XV made a number of unsuccessful attempts to negotiate peace but both sides saw him as biased in favour of the other and were unwilling to accept the terms he proposed. In internal Church affairs, Benedict calmed the excesses of the campaign against supposedly modernist scholars within the Church that had characterised the reign of St Pius X.
Ironically, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger censored liberal theologians, most notably fellow German theologian Hans Kung. Benedict XV died of pneumonia at the age of 67 in 1922 after only serving five years as Pope. He was succeeded by the more conservative Pius XI. Elected at the venerable age of 78 years, Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate is also expected to be short. Pope Ratzinger could be paving the way for another Pius.

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