Pope Benedict XVI Resigns: 7 Scandals That Have Troubled The Pontiff

From Hitler Youth To 'Vatileaks', 7 Controversies To Hit Benedict's Papacy

Pope Benedict XVI's eight years as head of the Catholic Church have been exhausting ones, with the pontiff citing in his resignation statement that his departure was down to the nature of "today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance."

From child sex abuse scandals to the "Vatileaks" controversy involving his former butler, here are the seven biggest controversies of during the Pope's time in the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI waving as he leaves Paul VI hall after attending a concert

1. His time in the Hitler Youth

Born in Bavaria, Germany, into a family of farmers, the Pope's time in the Hitler Youth, which he joined at the age of 14, was swiftly highlighted by the media after his appointment.

He was drafted in an anti-aircraft unit in Munich as he was studying in Traunstein seminary, but he deserted towards the end of the war, and was a prisoner-of-war in 1945.

Many of his supporters have pointed out that the Pope would never have had any choice about joining the Nazi movement.

In the 1996 book “Salt of the Earth”, the Pope is quoted as saying: “At first we weren’t, but when the compulsory Hitler Youth was introduced in 1941, my brother was obliged to join. I was still too young, but later, as a seminarian, I was registered in the HY. As soon as I was out of the seminary I never went back.”

2. The Catholic Church Child Sex Abuse Scandal

In 2005, when Pope Benedict succeeded Pope John Paul II, the church was engulfed in the priest child sex abuse scandal and damaging claims that local dioceses were complicit in their cover-up.

Shortly before his election in 2005, he spoke out about the scandal at Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum, saying: "How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!"

It was the dominent news story about the Catholic church from 2009-10. Victims of sex abuse came forward in Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and the US.

Thousands of people signed a petition on Downing Street's website against the pope's four-day visit to England and Scotland in September 2009, launched by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Before his election, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, he headed the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - formerly the Holy Office of the Inquisition. That led to the nickname "God's Rottweiler", and he led on many investigations into child abuse.

The Pope, unlike many other Catholic leaders, never blamed an "anti-Catholic" conspiracy for the coverage, but said that it was the church's responsibility.

Pope Benedict XVI, right, arrives with his then-butler Paolo Gabriele, bottom

3. Vatileaks

The "VatiLeaks" scandal involved a former papal butler, who leaked hundreds of Catholic documents andclaimed that more than 20 whistleblowers were involved in the operation which attempted to prove corruption, power struggles and incompetence at the highest levels at the Holy See.

Paolo Gabriele has previously claimed he was acting out of love for the church, but said in the interview that people were afraid to speak out from inside the city walls: "Ours is a state where you can get in, kill and leave undisturbed, and after 24 hours no one can say what happened."

Gabriele, who would ride at the head of the 'Popemobile', started as a humble cleaner in the Vatican and rose to become the Pope's personal butler.

"I want to renew my trust in and encouragement of my closest collaborators and all those who every day, with loyalty and a spirit of sacrifice and in silence, help me fulfill my ministry.

In December, he visited Gabriele, forgave him, and pardoned him for his crime

4. Relationship with Jews

In 2008, the Pope angered the Jewish community by promoting a new version of the Good Friday prayer for the Jews "to be delivered from darkness".

The version read: "Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men."

He also caused a storm of controversy by reversing the excommunication of four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X. One of them was Bishop Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier who has been prosecuted in Germany.

5. Apology to Muslims

The Pope sparked a row with Muslim leaders after a speech he gave to university professors during a visit to Germany, where he referred to a Byzantine texts which called the teachings of Mohammed "evil and inhuman".

He expressed deep regret at the upset, saying" "I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

Mahmoud Ashour, the former deputy of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque, the Sunni Arab world’s most powerful institution, told Al-Arabiya TV immediately after the pope’s speech that, “It is not enough. He should apologise because he insulted the beliefs of Islam. He must apologize in a frank way and say he made a mistake.”

A Benetton clothing store window covered by posters showing the pope Benedict XVI kissing on the lips Egypt's Ahmed el Tayyeb

6. The Bennetton Kissing Posters

In 2011, the Vatican threatened legal action to prevent further distribution or of a photoshopped image of the pope kissing Mohammed Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand sheikh of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, used as part of an advertising campaign for Benetton. The sheikh's mosque was one of the key critics of the Pope's anti-Muslim reference in 2006.

The advert appeared in various locations across Italy before it was removed.

7. His "Prada" slippers

A rumour circulated shortly after the Pope ascended to the office that he had replaced Pope John Paul II scuffed red leather slippers with new Prada ones. A senior Vatican official says the loafers were actually made by the pope's personal cobbler.


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