About the Autographed Photo of Pope Benedict XVI: Commentary by Father Richard Kunst
This item is actually both common and uncommon. It is the autographed photo of a pope. Although they are relatively common, they’re still highly sought after and a lot of people try to get them, which makes it fairly difficult. So maybe it’s a misnomer to say that they’re common. But the thing that makes this one uncommon is that it’s the first photograph signed by Pope Benedict XVI as pope. It was on May 9, 2005, so it was just 19-20 days after his election.
We can see the ‘PP’ next to his name on this item, as in many other documents in the Collection, dating way back in history. The significance of the ‘PP’ is that almost always, though not always, a pope will sign his papal name with ‘PP’, which simply is short for Papa or Daddy, indicating the spiritual fatherhood of the pope towards the faithful. So 99 per cent of the time the Holy Father signs in this manner symbolizing his universal role as our Shepherd. Imagine! His symbol of fathering us is contained right in his very name. And it has been used for hundreds of years.
Joseph Alois Ratzinger was born in Marktl am Inn, Germany, on April 16th, 1927 on Holy Saturday. His father, a police officer, came from a traditional family of farmers in Bavaria. He spent his childhood in Traunsteing, a small village near the Austrian border, an experience he defines as Mozartian. These youthful years were not easy as he saw first-hand the hostile attitude of the Nazis towards the Catholic Church. He was helped by his family’s attitude that always conveyed a deep attachment to their church and a clear witness of faith in God. In 1943, at the age of 16, he was, along with his class, drafted into the anti-aircraft corps. He was sent to basic training and posted to Hungary. He fled the Nazi army in April of 1944, an offense punishable by death. In 1945 he was held briefly in an Allied POW camp. After his release, he and his brother entered seminary.
His education included studies in philosophy and theology from 1946-1951. He was ordained a priest on June 29, 1951. In 1953 he obtained his doctorate in theology with a thesis entitled, The People and House of God in St. Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church. Four years later, he qualified as a university teacher, and he taught dogma and fundamental theology at several German universities from 1959 to 1969. He became known as a subtle thinker and an engaging teacher.
By the age of 35, he became a peritus, or theological expert, for the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings, at the Second Vatican Council.
Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Munich and Fresing, and he was ordained on May 28, 1977. Less than a month later, in the Consistory of June 27, 1977, he was named Cardinal. Under Pope John Paul II, he was appointed the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He also served as President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the Pontifical International Theological Commission. He became Dean of the College of Cardinals on November 30, 2002.
Cardinal Ratzinger became the most influential person in the Catholic Church after the pope.
On April 19, 2005, after one of the briefest Papal Conclaves in modern history, Joseph Ratzinger became the 265th pope, taking the name Benedict XVI. He explained his choice of name during his first General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, on April 27, 2005:
Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples. Additionally, I recall Saint Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, whose life evokes the Christian roots of Europe. I ask him to help us all to hold firm to the centrality of Christ in our Christian life: May Christ always take first place in our thoughts and actions!
In April of 2008, Pope Benedict traveled to the United States where he was received everywhere with warmth and appreciation. During this very significant journey he visited with the president and his wife, celebrated Mass attended by thousand of people in various locations, addressed representatives of Catholic universities and met with families of disabled children. Additionally, one of the most notable and healing moments of his journey was his meeting with victims of sexual abuse.
In his eight years as Successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI authored three encyclicals (Deus Caritas Est, Spe Salvi, and Caritas in Veritate). He canonized over 40 saints, named two doctors of the church, and created 90 cardinals in five consistories. He traveled across six continents, published over 30 books since his papal election and consistently spoke about his desire for unity in the Church and for renewing the Church and its faithful. Pope Benedict declared a Year of Faith from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013.
In February 2013, Benedict XVI announced his momentous decision to resign from his office as Pope, effective, February 28, 2013. He is the first pope to have made this decision since Pope St. Celestine V resigned or abdicated in 1294 after just five and one-half months in office. An interesting fact is that Pope Benedict XVI went twice to the small northern town of l’Aquila to visit the tomb of St. Celestine V. The first time, he took off his pallium, the sign of authority that a pope wears, and laid it on the tomb of the saint: a telling gesture.
Newsweek magazine called Pope Benedict XVI more complex and charismatic than many expected. He will, as Cardinal Ratzinger, continue to live in the Vatican in a monastery that has been refurbished for him.
Items belonging to or associated with Pope Benedict XVI are on Papal Artifacts/Benedict XVI.
Papal Artifacts honors the gift of his life to our Church.