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Pontificate of Benedict XVI (2005-2010)

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60c Detail of "Resurrection of Christ" single

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (b. 1927) was elected the 265th pope on April 19, 2005, seventeen days after the death of John Paul II. Born in Bavaria, he is the first German-born pope in nearly a millennium; at age 78, he is also the oldest man elected to the office since 1730. Upon his election, Cardinal Ratzinger chose the regnal name Benedict XVI.

In the main, the post office under Benedict XVI has followed the philatelic precedents set under John Paul II. Artistic and historical themes continue to dominate stamp subjects, and the issuing policy remains conservative — in fact, the average print run of new issues decreased in 2008 and 2009. On December 1, 2008, the Vatican government issued Decree No. LXXX, which orders that all Vatican postal paper issued since 1963 and denominated solely in lire will be invalid as of July 1, 2009, which is three years earlier than required by the Vatican's monetary agreements with Italy and the European Union. This is the only instance of mass demonetization of postage stamps in Vatican history, and it has provoked protests from some collectors and dealers.

Daniel Piazza, National Postal Museum

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62c Praying Hands, Church, Mosque and Synagogue single

As with his definitive issues, Benedict XVI's commemoratives are marked by the Vatican's usual characteristics: high quality of design and production, limited print runs, and themes relevant to religion, history, and art. The 2005 Europa issues feature fishes painted on ceramic plates by Pablo Picasso, from the collections of the Vatican Museums. This was a highly creative response to that year's Europa theme, gastronomy, on the part of a state with no distinctive national cuisine.

Other commemorative stamps — many of them joint issues — have emphasized Vatican City's ties to other historically Catholic countries on the European continent, including France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Malta, and Hungary. This reflects the pope's desire to restore the vitality of Christianity in a largely secular Europe. When he selected the name Benedict in 2005, the pope explained that his name was meant to "recall Saint Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, whose life evokes the Christian roots of Europe." In particular, most of the annual Christmas stamps during Benedict XVI's reign have been a joint issue with another European nation.

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25c Delphic Sibyl single

The sole definitive issue of Benedict XVI's reign thus far has been a set of ten marking the 400th anniversary of Michelangelo's beginning work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Issued March 6, 2008, the stamps feature images of sibyls and prophets taken from the ceiling. The five-euro value of this series, depicting the prophet Zachariah, is notable as the highest-ever face value Vatican City postage stamp; five euro is approximately equal to 9,600 old lire.

International Philately