As pope, Benedict XVI took a strongly conservative line on many social issues, reinforcing traditional Catholic teachings on topics like birth control, homosexuality and the ordination of women. He continued the work he did while in charge of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in criticising more liberal interpretations of Catholic theology. But he also continued the tradition of supporting many oppressed or marginalised groups - speaking up for refugees and immigrants, and calling for an end to the persecution of the Roma people.
Most notably, he was forced to confront the biggest scandal to hit the church in many years: the sexual abuse of children by some members of the clergy. While he was accused of having once been complicit in the church's cover-up of the extent of the scandal, as pope he took a much stronger stance. Soon after being elected, he began proceedings against one especially powerful priest who had long been accused of sexual abuse. He also expressed his sorrow over the church's actions, apologised to victims, and pledged to put in place more safeguards to protect children.
In contrast to his previous hardline reputation as John Paul II's "enforcer", those close to him said that in person Benedict XVI was humble and mild-mannered (above, he participates in the tradition of washing priests' feet). He did, however, indulge himself in at least one way: the man who as a child admired a cardinal's red robes brought back many traditional items of decorative papal clothing, such as red shoes and wide-brimmed red hats, that had not been used for decades.