The Pontificate of Benedict XVI: Its Premises and Promises

The Pontificate of Benedict XVI: Its Premises and Promises

The Pontificate of Benedict XVI: Its Premises and Promises

The Pontificate of Benedict XVI: Its Premises and Promises


Few persons of the theological stature of Joseph Ratzinger -- and with such a developed corpus of theological works -- have been elected Pope. There is no question that his pontificate will be extremely influential for the Roman Catholic Church and the world. But the question is In what ways?

This volume, published on the fourth anniversary of Benedict's election as Pope, offers considered insights into that key question. William Rusch has pulled together an ecumenical gathering of viewpoints -- Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Reformed, and Roman Catholic. Coming from this spectrum of Christian traditions, the authors examine how the life experiences and theological reflections of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will likely influence the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

"Again and again, [conference] participants expressed their pleased surprise at discovering that Ratzinger... was an intense but modest partner in exploring the truth of the Christian tradition and its more effective communication in a world frequently hostile to that truth. Those who have known Ratzinger over the years know him to be a man eager to listen, learn, and candidly respond to questions such as those addressed by the contributors to this volume." -- Richard John Neuhaus (from the afterword)

Cheryl Bridges Johns (Pentecostal)
Sara Butler (Roman Catholic)
Dale T. Irvin (Baptist)
Metropolitan Maximos (Greek Orthodox)
Harding Meyer (Lutheran)
Richard John Neuhaus (Roman Catholic)
Ephraim Radner (Episcopalian)
William G. Rusch (Lutheran)
Joseph D. Small (Presbyterian)
Geoffrey Wainwright (Methodist)


William G. Rusch

On April 19, 2005, late in the afternoon, white smoke issued from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. This was a clear sign to an awaiting and expectant crowd gathered in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome that the conclave of cardinals had elected a successor to the much-beloved Pope John Paul ii. Now in a real sense the long and influential pontificate of the first Polish Pope was ended. the Roman Catholic Church in the opening years of a new century and millennium was in new hands.

In Rome and around the world, there was anticipation as to who would succeed John Paul ii. the formal announcement soon came that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and a 78-year-old German theologian and archbishop, had been elected Pope and taken the name of Benedict xvi.

The choice in a number of ways was not surprising. Cardinal Ratzinger was Dean of the College of Cardinals. He had been a close collaborator with John Paul ii. Since the days of the Second Vatican Council, he had become a major theological voice in Roman Catholic and broader academic circles. He had played a major role in an impressive way in the events around the funeral of his predecessor.

Nevertheless, whether accurately or not, Joseph Ratzinger in the international media was often portrayed as an extreme conservative — rigid, and even stringent. Because of his age, many wondered if the cardinals had chosen an “interim” Pope after the many years of John Paul ii. His election seemed to confirm that Italian cardinals no longer had a lock on the papal office.

Speculation began almost at once about what kind of papacy Bene-

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