The Holy See is to publish an edition of the complete works of Pope Benedict including all of the major writings he produced as a theologian prior to his election as pontiff.
Times Online reports Pope Benedict is proving such a bestselling author that his entire literary output before he became Pope is to be issued in thirteen volumes, with the first volume to appear in bookshops at the end of this year.
Benedict's last book, Jesus of Nazareth — his first major publication written as Pope — has sold 2,500,000 copies so far worldwide.
But the Times Online says there is growing demand for the works he produced as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, when he was the Vatican's chief expert on doctrine, and even for his writings as a German theology professor in Bavaria.
Two years ago the Vatican reinforced copyright on all the Pope's speeches and writings, partly to prevent them being pirated but also because his words, like those of John Paul II his predecessor, have a huge market value.
Fr Giuseppe Costa, head of the Vatican publishing house Libreria Editrice Vaticana said that in the three years since Benedict was elected Pope, income earned from sales of his books amounted to €2 million ($A3 million).
Fr Costa said the collected works would total 132 titles, including books, monographs and meditations, beginning in 1950 and ending with his Good Friday meditations for Easter 2005, on the eve of his election at the secret conclave which followed the death of John Paul II.
The collection will be published by the Vatican jointly with the German Catholic publishing house Helder in several languages, including German, Italian and English.
Fr Costa said that many of the Pope's early works were hard to track down or even "unfindable", including his meditations on St Augustine (1954) and St Bonaventure (1959). He told La Repubblica that it had "not been easy" to persuade the Pope to sanction the venture, but success of his book sales "speaks for itself".
The Italian Catholic journal Tempi said that a new biography of the Pope, Benedict of Bavaria: An Intimate Portrait of the Pope and his Homeland by Brennan Pursell, an historian at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, would reveal that as a teenager in Hitler's Germany the Pope had a cousin who suffered from Down's Syndrome and was murdered as part of the Nazi extermination of the mentally and physically handicapped.
It said that the episode occurred in 1941, when the future Pope was 14. Professor Pursell said that it had had a profound impact on the young Joseph Ratzinger, and had reinforced his "unshakeable belief in the sanctity of life from conception until natural death."
Meanwhile, in his General Audience talk on Wednesday Pope Benedict cited the example of Irish St Columba, saying that living an "exemplary life" is key to re-evangelising lands that have forgotten their Christian roots.
General Audience, (Vatican, 11/6/08)