POPE BENEDICT XVI "highest earthly authority"
- Age: 83
- Title: Pope
- Organization: Roman Catholic Church
- Residence: Vatican City
- Country of citizenship: Germany
- Marital Status: Single
Highest earthly authority for 1.1 billion souls, or one-sixth of world's population. Staunch traditionalist deplores secularism, consumerism and moral relativism, unbending on birth control, gay marriage and ordination of female priests. Despite major gaffes (including lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying Bishop and quoting a 14th-century source that declared the only new things the prophet Mohammed brought were "evil and inhuman"), appears genuinely interested in healing old wounds. In September, not only became the first Pope to visit Westminster Abbey since the Protestant Reformation, but also shook hands with a clergywoman (another first). Widening sexual abuse scandal could undermine moral authority, but increasingly willing to tackle issue head on: "Forgiveness does not substitute for justice." Stylish: Has brought back traditional red, custom-made "pope shoes" and old-school Ecclesiastical headgear.