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CG: For Pope Benedict, this has been a week of milestones. He celebrated his 84th birthday and marked the sixth anniversary of his election as pope. Today we’ll look back at those six years and …More
CG: For Pope Benedict, this has been a week of milestones. He celebrated his 84th birthday and marked the sixth anniversary of his election as pope. Today we’ll look back at those six years and outline major accomplishments of this pontificate and some remaining challenges. I’m Carol Glatz. 00:15

JT: And I’m John Thavis. When Pope Benedict stepped onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica six years ago, he described himself as “a simple worker in the vineyard of the Lord.” That kind of humility has been a trademark of his papacy, surprising people who were expecting a doctrinaire hardliner. One of his central messages is that Christianity is not a set of rules, but a way of living -- a way of living that reflects God’s love. 00:24

CG: Pope Benedict has been above all a teaching pope, and what he’s focusing on are not doctrinal issues, but the basics of the faith: why God matters, a person’s relationship with Christ, the importance of human dignity, the need for charity. The pope is an academic, but he does try to put all this into language that people can understand. His sermon on Palm Sunday was typical: he compared sin and evil to the force of gravity, and described God’s love as the force that pulls people up. 00:31

JT: In this teaching ministry, Pope Benedict has used virtually every channel of modern communication: three encyclicals, two major books on Jesus Christ, a book-length interview with a journalist, hundreds of speeches and homilies, radio and TV appearances, and even a Facebook page. The pope would probably be the first to admit, however, that as a communicator he’s had some bumps in the road: the Regensburg speech on Islam, the case of Bishop Williamson are two examples of miscommunication that required papal explanations. 00:30

CG: Pope Benedict never thought he’d be much of a world traveler, but in fact he’s made 18 trips abroad, and has four more scheduled for this year. His visit to the United States was generally viewed as a triumph, and even in a Muslim country like Turkey, he made a very favorable impression. One big reason is that he comes across as thoughtful and open to dialogue -- another aspect of the German pope that has surprised some people. That has helped him win a hearing on one of his big themes: the rightful voice of religion in the public square.

JT: The pope has presided over synods on the Eucharist and Scripture. He called a special year of St. Paul and a Year for Priests. He has addressed the priestly sex abuse scandal head-on, expressing his deep sense of shame, implementing new measures to deal with abusers and meeting with victims -- some victims groups still say that’s not enough. In liturgy, the pope has reached out to traditionalists by lifting restrictions on the Tridentine Mass. But his effort to reconcile with the biggest traditionalist group, the Society of St. Pius X, has not made much headway.

CG: Part of the pope’s agenda has been to rekindle a sense of missionary awareness throughout the church, especially when it comes to traditionally Christian countries where practice of the faith has fallen off. Last year, he launched a new Vatican agency to deal with “new evangelization.” The idea is that the faith needs to be revived in Western secular societies in order for it to be credible in non-Christian countries.

JT: At the same time, Pope Benedict is looking East. He has made very public efforts to build bridges with government authorities in China, where church-state relations have been up and down. He has also strongly condemned anti-Christian violence and discrimination in the Middle East and Asia, and made it clear that there can be no compromise on fundamental religious freedoms.

CG: This has been a pontificate very much in continuity with Pope John Paul II -- something that will surely be underlined when Pope Benedict beatifies his predecessor on May 1. I’m Carol Glatz

JT: and I’m John Thavis, Catholic News Service.