The name is linked to the patron saint of Europe.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
PHILADELPHIA -- In choosing to be called Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger may be offering a hint into how he views his papacy.
With that name, he has symbolically linked himself to St. Benedict of Nursia, the founder of Western monasticism, and Pope Benedict XV, considered by some to be one of the most underrated of modern popes.
The name comes from Latin and means blessed.
Past actions of Benedicts
St. Benedict, who lived during the sixth century, is the author of the Rule of St. Benedict, the code that guides monastic life to this day and helped keep scholarship and the flame of faith alive during the Dark Ages. St. Benedict also is the patron saint of Europe.
Pope Benedict XV, who served from 1914 to 1922, followed Pius X, whose vigorous fight against modernism -- the attempt to reconcile Roman Catholic faith with modern rationality -- left the church divided.
In his first encyclical, issued only months after his installation, Benedict XV called a halt to the war between traditionalists and progressives in the church.
He also sought to end what he called the "useless slaughter" of World War I that played out during his papacy.
"Benedict's pontificate was characterized by the attempt to bring peace both to a war-ravaged Europe and to a Church recently torn by the Modernist crisis," according to the Encyclopedia of Catholicism.
Other Benedicts include:
UBenedict XIV (1740-58): He was a compromise choice after an arduous six-month conclave. Like Ratzinger, he was considered a scholar.
UBenedict XIII (1724-30): A rare pope from a religious order, the Dominicans, he remained head of his former Italian diocese as well as the bishop of Rome.
UBenedict XII (1334-42): He was one of the French popes who reigned from Avignon instead of Rome, considered a bleak era for the papacy.
UBenedict XI (1303-04): Also a Dominican, he was considered scholarly and a peacemaker among church factions.