Birthday blessings to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: A photo blog of his life since retirement from the papacy

Today is the 88th birthday of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
Born in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Germany, on April 16, 1927, on my Grandmother’s sixth birthday, the former Joseph Ratzinger was elected to the papacy on April 19, 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II. Then 78 years old, the new Pope Benedict XVI became the oldest pope to serve the Church in 300 years.
Waving from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica after being elected in April 2005 (EPA Photo)

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Where were you…?
Where were you when you heard that news on February 11, 2013 that Pope Benedict XVI, at age 85, had announced that he would step down from the papacy citing a “lack of strength of mind and body due to advanced age” seventeen days later on February 28?
He shocked the world with this monumental announcement, making him the first pope to step down from his pontificate since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.
Announcing his resignation during a consistory with Vatican cardinals on February 11, 2013 (AP Photo)


“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God,
I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age
are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
“I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature,
must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering. 
“However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions
of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel,
both strength of mind and body are necessary
strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me
to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
–Pope Benedict XVI on February 11, 2013
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Pope Benedict XVI walks with his cane following his final general audience on Feb. 27, 2013.
(Photo: L’Osservatore Romano/CNS)

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Above: The final tweet of Pope Benedict XVI as @Pontifex: February 27, 2013

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Pope Benedict left the Vatican on February 28, 2013 by Italian air force helicopter, circling Rome during the sunset hour while bells rang out from St. Peter’s Basilica and from every church in the region.
He would spend the next three months at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo until the renovations were completed at his new home in the Vatican Gardens at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery.

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“I am a simple pilgrim who begins the last stage of his pilgrimage on this earth.
“With all my heart, with all my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, with all my interior strength, I still want to work for the common good and the good of the church and humanity.”

–Pope Benedict XVI to those gathered outside Castel Gandolfo on February 28, 2013

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Glimpses into the retired life of the Holy Father Emeritus:
So what has Pope Benedict been doing since his retirement?

He has kept a low profile with a quiet schedule during the past two years.

Here are some of the highlights:

First meeting of two living popes in modern times:
Just days after his election, Pope Francis traveled by helicopter from the Vatican for this private first meeting with the former pontiff on March 23, 2013 at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. During the visit, they prayed together and had lunch. Pope Francis gave his retired predecessor a gift, an icon of Mary and Jesus that the Russian Orthodox delegation to the inauguration had given him the previous week:
“They told me this was Our Lady of Humility. If I may say, I thought of you.
You gave us so many examples of humility and tenderness.”
–Pope Francis 
(CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

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Pope Francis welcomes Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI back to the Vatican
after two months at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo;
(Photo: Reuters/L’Osservatore Romano)

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Pope Francis visited the Holy Father Emeritus at his new home, the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery on May 2, 2013.
(CNS/L’Ossevatore Romano via Reuters)

Living with Pope Benedict at the monastery will be his secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who also serves as prefect of the papal household to Pope Francis, along with four staff, all consecrated laywomen from Memores Domini. His home includes a chapel, library for his large book collection, and a guest room for his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger of their native Germany. 

The music room with piano is especially important to Pope Benedict, an accomplished pianist, who plays daily. His favorite composer is said to be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
“His music is by no means just entertainment; it contains the whole tragedy of human existence.”
—Pope Benedict XVI on Mozart
Besides piano practice, the Holy Father Emeritus is said to spend his time in prayer, reading and study, in informal private meetings with friends and associates, and keeping up with the daily news from the L’Osservatore Romano and the evening news broadcast.
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A private concert was held on January 14, 2014 for the occasion of the 90th birthday of the brother of the Holy Father Emeritus, Msgr. George Ratzinger, the former music director of the Regensburger Domspatzen, the Boys’ Choir of the Cathedral in Regensburg.

“…the honor of a lifetime…”

Lauren Green, who serves as Fox News Channel’s chief religion correspondent based in New York and has a degree in piano performance from the University of Minnesota, was the classical music pianist.
“To be asked to perform for the pope seemed like Divine intervention alone. But other things happened that convinced me God’s hand was in it, guiding my path.”

Read how Lauren Green knew it was “a God thing” in It was a God thing — adventures in faith on the way to concert for Pope Benedict, his brother.” 

Watch this short video on the concert from “Rome Reports” here.

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Attending the Consistory in Saint Peter’s Basilica on February 22, 2014 for the creation of 19 new cardinals:
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, age 86, embraced Pope Francis before the start of the consistory where these new members were elevated to the College of Cardinals.
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Sister Gisela Upunto Msuya, a Dominican nun from Same in East Timor, who studies at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) and lives in Rome, visited the Holy Father Emeritus on July 25, 2014. (Photo: Facebook)

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In his third public appearance since retirement, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI joined Pope Francis on September 28, 2014 for a celebration for grandparents and the elderly in St. Peter’s Square. (Photo: Reuters)

“He is discreet, humble, he doesn’t want to get in the way… It feels like having grandpa at home, because of his wisdom.
It does me good to listen to him. And it also encourages me a great deal.”

–Pope Francis said of his predecessor, noting that elderly persons transmit ‘wisdom and faith, the most precious inheritance.’

Archbishop Georg Gangwein serves as the secretary to the retired Holy Father.

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Selfies with the Pope Emeritus:
This photo of the Holy Father Emeritus, at age 87, with seminarian Giuseppe Ricciardi
who hails from the southern Italian diocese of Aversa was posted on Twitter:

“Ecco il primo #selfie in assoluto del #Papa Emerito #BenedettoXVI, in compagnia di Giuseppe Ricciardi di Aversa.” pic.twitter.com/ejZFJcXjnW

— Gianluca Barile (@GianlucaBarile1) on September 11, 2014

English translation:

“Here is the first #selfie ever of #Papa Emeritus #BenedettoXVI, in the company of Giuseppe Ricciardi of Aversa.” 

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Shortly thereafter, Gianluca Barile (@GianlucaBarile1) tweeted a second selfie of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, this time standing with Italian priest Fr. Sebastiano Sequino.

“Non c’è uno senza due! Ecco il secondo selfie di oggi di #Papa #BenedettoXVI, stavolta con Don Sebastiano Sequino.” pic.twitter.com/lYEc66vseZ
— Gianluca Barile (@GianlucaBarile1) September 11, 2014
English translation:
“There’s two, not just one!
This is the second selfie from today of Pope Benedict XVI, this time with Father Sebastiano Sequino” 

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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI exchanging the Sign of Peace with cardinals during the Beatification Mass for Blessed Pope Paul VI. This liturgy was celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on October 19, 2014.

(Photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

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Archbishop of Panama Jose Domingo Ulloa, with Bishop David Bishop, Monsignor José Luis Lacunza, and women from their delegation meet with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on November 19, 2014 at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery. 

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This year’s Epiphany/ birthday visit for the brothers:
Msgr. Georg Ratzinger flew from Munich to Rome on December 29, 2014 to visit with his brother, the Holy Father Emeritus, until January 16. They would celebrate Msgr. Ratzinger’s birthday, now the 91st, there again at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.
This year’s celebration included another concert, with music by Il Trio Böhm, held in the same room at Vatican Radio as the 90th birthday concert the previous year.
The chamber musicians were Michela Berti paying flute, Claudio Cavallaro on the clarinet, and  Daniele Veroli playing the horn.

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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI again attended the consistory held this year on February 14, 2015 for the creation of 20 new cardinals
(AP Photo)

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The Archbishop of Lviv Mieczysław Mokrzycki, took his brother bishops to meet Benedict at the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens on February 21, 2015 while on their ad limina visit to Rome. The Archbishop served as second secretary to St. John Paul II and also to Pope Benedict XVI until he was appointed Archbishop of Lviv in western Ukraine. Pope Benedict ordained him to the bishopric in St. Peter’s Basilica and now invited the Archbishop to lunch at the monastery and expressed a wish to meet his brother bishops.

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Birthday blessings:

For his 88th birthday, Pope Benedict XVI will once again enjoy the company of his brother, Msgr. Ratzinger, for a ten-day visit.

Fond memories:

The Holy Father celebrated his 81st birthday at the White House with President and Mrs. Bush on April 16, 2008 during his pastoral trip to the United States.

Ad multos annos!!

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