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Pope Benedict XVI


Foreword by Bishop Robert Barron

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It is difficult to overestimate the impact that Pope Benedict XVI has had on the Catholic Church. He served the people of God as a priest, an advisor at the Second Vatican Council, a bishop, a cardinal, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the 265th pope. But in addition to his influence as a churchman, Joseph Ratzinger also stands out as one of the most significant thinkers in recent history. He is the author of more than sixty books, numerous articles, and countless homilies. Catholics and non-Catholics alike have been inspired and challenged by his theological writings.

For many people, it can be difficult to know where to begin. The Pope Benedict XVI Reader, a new book from the Word on Fire Institute, released on the Pope Emeritus’ birthday, offers a point of entry for anyone seeking a deeper engagement with his teachings. This wide-ranging collection draws together some of the finest excerpts from Ratzinger’s books, interviews, speeches, audiences, and homilies, with insights on a variety of topics, including the Trinity, the person of Jesus Christ, the Church, Mary and the saints, the Bible, the liturgy, prayer, the Second Vatican Council, and the challenge of living the faith in the modern world. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of a man whose legacy of scholarly erudition, pastoral gentleness, and deep and abiding love for Christ and his Church continues to awe the world.

Publisher:  Word on Fire Institute

Release Date: April 16, 2021

Format:  Hardcover, cloth with dust jacket

Pages:  384 pages


JOSEPH RATZINGER (Pope Benedict XVI) was born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1927. He served as pope of the Catholic Church from April 19, 2005, to February 28, 2013. A prolific author, theologian, and university professor, Ratzinger participated in the Second Vatican Council as a theological advisor. He was named Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977 and was created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI later that same year. In 1981, Pope John Paul II called him to Rome to lead the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he served for twenty-four years until his election to the papacy. He is widely recognized as one of the most brilliant theologians and spiritual leaders in recent history.


Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) is, quite simply, one of the most important Catholics of the last hundred and fifty years. I hope this book might function not only as a summation of his thought but, more importantly, as a humble tribute to him.

— Bishop Robert Barron

from the foreword to The Pope Benedict XVI Reader

Salz der Erde - Gott und die Welt. Jesus Christus: Die Biografie - Interview mit Peter Seewald

Benedict XVI is quite rightly referred to by many experts as a doctor of the Church of the modern age. He provided an accurate analysis of the Christian faith and of today’s society, and at the same time indicated the way out of the crisis in which we find ourselves. Joseph Ratzinger was never one to guard the ashes, but rather the fire. He remains a great sage of the Church, a spiritual master who introduces us to the art of living. The Pope Benedict XVI Reader gives us the opportunity to see the broad spectrum of his work and to be inspired by the depth of his words and principles.

— Peter Seewald

Author of Benedict XVI: A Life

This book puts forward the central writings of the greatest theologian of our times. Here we find a gracious thinker who has been illuminated by the Logos, Jesus Christ, and who helps us meet this loving Lord in the Scriptures and the liturgy, deepening our faith through touching its very source. Word on Fire has given us a treasure!

— Matthew Levering

James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

This is the Ratzinger equivalent of a highlights disc. Within the pages of one book readers can find his best arias, most famous overtures, and his hauntingly pure slow-movement adagios. These excerpts are an opportunity to access the mind and heart of the master theologian of our age. Every Catholic home should have a copy of this book.

— Tracey Rowland

John Paul II Chair of Theology, University of Notre Dame (Australia)

This magnificent collection of Joseph Ratzinger’s writings will provide a firm foundation for those looking for an accessible entry point to this theological giant’s vast corpus. To those already familiar with Benedict’s thought, the book’s wide sampling of genres and topics will put the immense achievements of his oeuvre into context and likely reveal some new gems—particularly given that this up-to-date anthology uniquely includes texts from across Ratzinger’s career and even some lesser-known content penned after the end of his pontificate.

— Matthew Ramage

Associate Professor of Theology at Benedictine College





  • Chapter 1: Early Childhood and Vocation
  • Chapter 2: The Young Professor
  • Chapter 3: A Peritus at Vatican II
  • Chapter 4: Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Chapter 5: Habemus Papam
  • Chapter 6: The Resignation


  • Chapter 7: Prolegomena on the Subject of God
  • Chapter 8: God: The Essential Matter
  • Chapter 9: One God in Three Persons


  • Chapter 10: Jesus Christ: The Incarnate Love of God
  • Chapter 11: The Birth of Jesus
  • Chapter 12: Jesus on the Cross
  • Chapter 13: The Resurrection
  • Chapter 14: Eschatology: The True Shape of Christian Hope


  • Chapter 15: The Holy, Catholic Church
  • Chapter 16: The Church in the Third Millennium
  • Chapter 17: Remaining in the Church
  • Chapter 18: Christianity and the World Religions

PART V - THE SECOND Vatican Council

  • Chapter 19: A Council to Be Rediscovered
  • Chapter 20: The Meaning of Subsistit In
  • Chapter 21: The Hermeneutic of Continuity

PART vi - the bible

  • Chapter 22: The Limits of the Historical-Critical Method
  • Chapter 23: The Senses of Scripture
  • Chapter 24: Lectio Divina

PART vii - Liturgy, the sacraments, and the priesthood

  • Chapter 25: Liturgy and Life: The Place of the Liturgy in Reality
  • Chapter 26: The Eucharist and the Sacraments of Mission
  • Chapter 27: On Being a Priest

PART viII - Mary

  • Chapter 28: The Place of Mariology in the Bible
  • Chapter 29: The Mother of God
  • Chapter 30: The Faith of Mary

PART ix - the church fathers

  • Chapter 31: St. Clement of Rome
  • Chapter 32: St. Ignatius of Antioch
  • Chapter 33: St. Justin Martyr
  • Chapter 34: St. Irenaeus of Lyons
  • Chapter 35: Origen of Alexandria
  • Chapter 36: St. Athanasius
  • Chapter 37: St. Basil
  • Chapter 38: St. Gregory Nazianzus
  • Chapter 39: St. John Chrysostom
  • Chapter 40: St. Hilary of Poitiers
  • Chapter 41: St. Ambrose
  • Chapter 42: St. Jerome
  • Chapter 43: St. Augustine
  • Chapter 44: St. Leo the Great
  • Chapter 45: St. Benedict
  • Chapter 46: St. Gregory the Great

PART x - prayer

  • Chapter 47: Prayer and the Natural Desire for God
  • Chapter 48: Prayer and the Holy Spirit
  • Chapter 49: The Nature of Christian Prayer

PART xi - faith in the modern world

  • Chapter 50: The Dictatorship of Relativism
  • Chapter 51: The Two Levels of Conscience
  • Chapter 52: The Problem of Practical Atheism
  • Chapter 53: Defending the Rationality of Faith
  • Chapter 54: The Development of Peoples and Technology