“After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.” With these words the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI approached more than 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide from the balcony of the St. Peters Basilica on April 19th 2005. After only 26 hours in conclave in the Sistine Chapel, the 115 congregated cardinals elected him as successor of John Paul II. It was a surprise since a favoured Cardinal had in fact seldom been chosen as Pontiff. Benedict XVI is the eighth German Pope overall, but the first after nearly five hundred years.
He was born as Joseph Ratzinger on April 16th 1927 in Marktl am Inn in Bavaria. After his studies in theology and philosophy he completed his doctorate with the subject Augustine and attended a dogmatic professorship in 1958. In May 1977 he was consecrated as archbishop of Munich and one month later he was appointed a Cardinal. As from 1981 until 2005 Ratzinger functioned as a prefect for the vital faith congregation and was therewith a close confident of Pope John Paul II.
Although the intellectual rhetorician’s statements in his theological scripts are disputatious and belligerent, the new elected Pope is contained and moderate in public. Compared to his Polish predecessor he only travels on rare occasions, receives fewer audiences and does not seek the direct contact to the Believers. Nevertheless the German Popes popularity does not suffer. Even on his last journey in July 2006 hundreds of thousands visited the final Mass in Valencia.
In memory of his election the Cook Islands dedicate a splendid silver coin to Benedict XVI. It shows a wonderful Pope portrait in an astounding high relief, paired with a glistening Swarovski crystal in the Vatican colours yellow and white.