Pope Benedict XVI: A life and legacy

BBC [London, England]

January 5, 2023

By Colm Flynn

[Audio presentation, 27 minutes, including interviews with Doris Reisinger, Anne Barrett Doyle, John L. Allen Jr., Bishop Robert Barron, et al.]

In this special programme to mark the death of Pope Benedict XVI, Colm Flynn explores the life story of the gentle German academic who became the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics all over the world.

The 95-year old Pope Emeritus died at the Vatican on New Year’s Eve 2022. He will perhaps be best remembered as the first Pope to retire in 600 years. But his life and legacy is much more complicated and varied, with a papacy filled with both majestic spiritual moments and embarrassing and hurtful blunders.

Benedict led the Catholic Church for fewer than eight years but is considered by many to be one of the most influential religious leaders of modern times. Born Joseph Ratzinger in rural Bavaria, he has a deeply religious upbringing and trained for the priesthood along with his brother. Before becoming a bishop, he was a professor of theology, teaching in several universities. He embraced the spirit of change that blew through the Catholic Church in the 1960s, gaining a reputation as a progressive at the Second Vatican Council. But in later life, as head of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal watchdog, he defended Catholic teaching fearlessly, even earning the nickname “God’s Rottweiler”.

As Pope, Benedict spoke out against what he called “the dictatorship of relativism”, and produced deeply moving spiritual writings, drawing many young people to the Catholic faith. His papal visits always draw huge crowds and those who met him describe a gentle, kind and self-effacing man. His Papacy was overshadowed by the breaking scandals of decades of sexual abuse in the Church. And while Pope Benedict introduced ground-breaking reforms to tackle abuse, campaigners for survivors say he failed to deal with hundreds of cases.

In this Heart and Soul special, we explore the life and legacy of this complex and divisive Pope, Benedict XVI.

Presenter/producer: Colm Flynn
Mixed by Simon Highfield
Production co-ordinator: Mica Nepomuceno
Production support: John Offord
Editor: Helen Grady