A Man On A Mission

ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP-GETTY

LEARNING: Benedict doesn't work the crowds like John Paul II, but he has clearly warmed to the public aspects of the job

The man who would become pope benedict XVI began the year behind a desk. Granted, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was no ordinary shuffler of Vatican papers; indeed, he had long been celebrated by Church conservatives as the architect of Pope John Paul II's doctrinal policy and vilified by progressives as the panzerkardinal who defended Catholic orthodoxy with the impenetrability of a tank. Yet Ratzinger's quotidian reality was essentially that of an exalted Catholic Church bureaucrat. Working the day shift at Church headquarters for 23 years meant studying and safeguarding the Gospels, not preaching it.

On March 31, Ratzinger was...

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