Ahead of the funeral Thursday for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on December 31, Catholic publishers and writers are reflecting on his scores of theological works and the encyclicals (major teaching letters) he authored as pope from 2005 to 2013. Nearly a decade after he resigned as leader of the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics, many say Benedict will be influential far into the future.

Pope Benedict was born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927 and launched his scholarly career in the 1950s. He was named the Cardinal Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977. In 1981, Ratzinger was installed as the curia's chief enforcer as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II, whom he succeeded. Over the decades, Ratzinger was often described as a strict conservative struggling to deal with the Church's most challenging controversies, such as the sexual abuse crisis and the rampant rise of secularism that has emptied churches across Europe and America.

Scott P. Richert, publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, tells PW, “At the heart of all of Pope Benedict’s writings, from his days as a scholar-priest to his last letters in this last year, has been the experience of the believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ. He understands that all theology, all doctrine, flows from that relationship." OSV published four books about Benedict and 22 titles by Benedict that are now out of print. Two of Benedict's titles do remain in print at OSV, and referring to these, Richert notes, "Future generations will likely see his greatest contribution as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church."

Ratzinger's lifelong theological output was "prodigious," says Rev. Mark-David Janus, publisher for Paulist Press, citing "his insistence that the ministry of the papacy was more important than the person of the pope." Janus believes "his most significant encyclical was Deus Caritas Est, (God is Love) published in 2005 (by numerous publishers), his three-volume reflection on Christ, Jesus of Nazareth ( Doubleday, 2007), and his theological memoir of Vatican II in his book Theological Highlights of Vatican II (Paulist, 2009)." He also prompted commentaries and reflections on his theology "almost without number," says Janus, highlighting Paulist-published works by Jesuit professor of theology Thomas Rausch and by Rev. James Corkery.

Joellyn Cicciarelli, president and publisher of Loyola Press, says their curriculum division drew deeply on Benedict's major teachings, including his lessons on the environment in Caritas in Veritate. "As a publisher of two core religious education programs (Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and Christ Our Life), our teams often look to Pope Benedict’s writings to develop content around social issues. His words, so clear and based in scripture and the Catechism, are simple to translate for children as we seek to teach them the core tenets of the Catholic faith,” says Cicciarelli.

Ignatius Press—founded in 1978 by Fr. Joseph Fessio, who was a student of Cardinal Ratzinger's in Germany in the 1970s—was the exclusive English-language publisher of 22 pre-papal books by Ratzinger. The press has continued to publish his writings and encyclicals. When Benedict resigned, both Ignatius and Penguin Random House's Image Books told PW that sales of some editions of the pope’s books, especially his Jesus trilogy, went back to press.

Reflecting on his mentor, Fessio recently told the Detroit Catholic News, "He really had a serene and humble insight. He was such a great person and had a great mind." In a statement for PW, he says, “I don’t believe being pope is a proof of sanctity, nor is it sufficient grounds for canonization. But being Joseph Ratzinger is. I don’t know anyone who has worked closely with him who does not recognize his holiness and his brilliance."

Ross Douthat, a New York Times Opinion columnist whose 2018 book To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism (S&S), critiques Benedict's successor, wrote Monday that the ways Benedict had sought to govern the church during his papacy have been "challenged and partly reversed." He added, "But Joseph Ratzinger the scholar and theologian and writer, Joseph Ratzinger the champion of a certain idea of Catholic Christianity—well, he has only just begun to fight."