The rise and fall of Pope Benedict XVI | DW Documentary


May 21, 2022

As Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger was head of the Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013. Using archival footage and conversations with contemporary witnesses, this film provides insight into the rise and fall of the German pope.

Pope Benedict XVI led the Catholic Church into the greatest crisis it has faced since the Reformation. Namely, the worldwide child sexual abuse scandal. Filmmaker Christoph Röhl tells the story of this pope’s rise and fall, both of which were symptomatic of the church’s larger failures.

Bringing a combination of curiosity and scepticism to his subject, Christoph Röhl’s documentary shows us a man who dedicated his life to preserving the Church – but inadvertently led it into its greatest crisis. The interviewees, all of whom worked within the clerical system, describe how Ratzinger’s policies contributed to the dramatic loss of moral authority from which the Church still suffers, today.

This is an epic story, starring a tragic hero. Ratzinger believed that truth was to be found exclusively in the teachings of the Catholic Church and that contemporary society would be lost if it did not rediscover its Catholic values in time. But he came to realize that his worst enemies were inside the Church – even within his inner circle.

The film tells the story of a lonely man who began his career as a reformer, only to leave the public eye in disgrace.

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