He didn't produce volumes of encyclicals like his predecessor, just three: on charity, hope and love. (He penned a fourth, on faith, but retired before finishing it.)
Considered by many to be the greatest living theologian, he authored more than 65 books, stretching from the classic ``Introduction to Christianity'' in 1968 to the final installment of his triptych on ``Jesus of Nazareth'' last year _ considered by some to be his most important contribution to the church. In between he produced the ``Catechism of the Catholic Church'' _ essentially a how-to guide to being a Catholic.
Benedict spent the bulk of his early career in the classroom, as a student and then professor of dogma and fundamental theology at universities in Bonn, Muenster, Tuebingen and Regensburg, Germany.
``His classrooms were crowded,'' recalled the Rev. Joseph Fessio, a theology student of Ratzinger's at the University of Regensburg from 1972-74, and now the English-language publisher of his books.
``I don't recall him having notes,'' Fessio said. ``He would stand at the front of the class, and he wasn't looking at you, not with eye contact, but he was looking over you, almost meditating.''
It's a style that he's kept for 40 years.
``If you hear him give a sermon, he's speaking not from notes, but you can write it down and print it,'' Fessio said. ``Every comma is there. Every pause.''
Benedict never wanted to be pope and he didn't take easily to the rigors of the job. Elected April 19, 2005, after one of the shortest conclaves in history, Benedict was, at 78, the oldest pope elected in 275 years and the first German in nearly a millennium.
At first he was stiff.
Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, recalled that in the early days Benedict used to greet crowds with an awkward victory gesture ``as if he were an athlete.''
``At some point someone told him that wasn't a very papal gesture,'' Vian said. Benedict changed course, opting for an open-armed embrace or an almost effeminate twinkling of his fingers on an outstretched hand as a way of connecting with the crowd.