Pope Benedict was cheered by conservatives for trying to reaffirm traditional Catholic identity but liberals accused him of turning back the clock on reforms and hurting dialogue with Muslims, Jews and other Christians.
The 85-year-old German-born pontiff announced on Monday he would step down at the end of the month because of the effects of old age meant he was unable to complete his ministry. It was a decision that stunned Church officials and Catholics around the world, but one that he had hinted at in the past.
Benedict’s relations with Jews had highs and lows.
Jews were offended by his decision to allow a wider use of the old-style Latin Mass and missal, which included a prayer for the conversion of the Jews.
Jews took offence again in December 2009 when he re-started the process putting his wartime predecessor Pius XII, accused by some Jews of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust, back on the road to sainthood after a two-year pause for reflection.
The Jewish world, as well as many Catholics, were outraged after Benedict lifted the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops, including one who openly denied the Holocaust.
However in 2011, he won acclaim by personally exonerating Jews of allegations they were responsible for Christ’s death, repudiating the concept of collective Jewish guilt that haunted Christian-Jewish relations for centuries.
The first German pope for 1,000 years, Benedict confronted his country’s past when he visited the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.