Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, distributed communion at a 1984 Mass at St. Thomas.

New pope visited St. Thomas in 1984

Newly elected Pope Benedict XVI visited the then-College of St. Thomas in 1984.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was cardinal prefect of the Vatican ’s Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when he gave a lecture, received an honorary degree and preached at a Mass.

At the time he was hailed as an internationally known theologian and author and was a university professor in Germany until named archbishop of Munich and Freising and a cardinal in 1977. Four years later he became a prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the post he held until yesterday, when he was elected pope.

Ratzinger presided and delivered the homily at a Mass commemorating the 15th anniversary of the St. John Vianney Seminary, the college-level seminary at St. Thomas, on Feb. 12, 1984. He gave a public lecture – the third in the Pope John Paul II Lecture Series sponsored by the St. Thomas Philosophy Department and the St. John Vianney Seminary – and received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the then-College of St. Thomas on Feb. 13, 1984.

The honorary degree lauded Ratzinger’s "readiness to name and to address the difficulties our age presents to the faith and to its transmission."

Then-Monsignor Richard Pates, now a bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, visited with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the sacristy of the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas in 1984.