Pope Benedict XVI


Pope Benedict XVI is a retired prelate of the Catholic Church who served as head of the Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2005 until his resignation in 2013. Benedict's election as pope occurred in the 2005 papal conclave that followed the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict chose to be known by the title "pope emeritus" upon his resignation.
Ordained as a priest in 1951 in his native Bavaria, Ratzinger embarked on an academic career and established himself as a highly regarded theologian by the late 1950s. He was appointed a full professor in 1958 at the age 31. After a long career as a professor of theology at several German universities, he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and Cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977, an unusual promotion for someone with little pastoral experience. In 1981, he was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman Curia. From 2002 until his election as pope, he was also Dean of the College of Cardinals. Prior to becoming pope, he was "a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century"; he had an influence "second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions" as one of John Paul II's closest confidants. He has lived in Rome since 1981.
His prolific writings generally defend traditional Catholic doctrine and values. He was originally a liberal theologian, but adopted conservative views after 1968. During his papacy, Benedict XVI advocated a return to fundamental Christian values to counter the increased secularisation of many Western countries. He views relativism's denial of objective truth, and the denial of moral truths in particular, as the central problem of the 21st century. He taught the importance of both the Catholic Church and an understanding of God's redemptive love. Pope Benedict also revived a number of traditions, including elevating the Tridentine Mass to a more prominent position. He strengthened the relationship between the Catholic Church and art, promoted the use of Latin, and reintroduced traditional papal garments, for which reason he was called "the pope of aesthetics". He has been described as "the main intellectual force in the Church" since the mid-1980s.
On 11 February 2013, Benedict unexpectedly announced his resignation in a speech in Latin before the cardinals, citing a "lack of strength of mind and body" due to his advanced age. His resignation became effective on 28 February 2013. He is the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415, and the first to do so on his own initiative since Celestine V in 1294. As pope emeritus, Benedict retains the style of His Holiness and continues to dress in the papal colour of white. He was succeeded by Pope Francis on 13 March 2013, and he moved into the newly renovated Mater Ecclesiae Monastery for his retirement on 2 May 2013. In his retirement, Benedict XVI has made occasional public appearances alongside Francis.
In addition to his native German, Benedict speaks French, Italian and English fluently. He also has an excellent command of Latin and speaks Spanish adequately. Furthermore, he has much knowledge of Portuguese. He can read Ancient Greek and biblical Hebrew. He has stated that his first foreign language is French. He is a member of several scientific academies, such as the French Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques. He plays the piano and has a preference for Mozart and Bach.

Early life: 1927–1951

Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born on 16 April, Holy Saturday, 1927, at Schulstraße 11, at 8:30 in the morning in his parents' home in Marktl, Bavaria, Germany. He was baptised the same day. He is the third and youngest child of Joseph Ratzinger Sr., a police officer, and Maria Ratzinger ; his grand-uncle was the German priest-politician Georg Ratzinger. His mother's family was originally from South Tyrol. Pope Benedict's elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, was a Catholic priest and was the former director of the Regensburger Domspatzen choir. His sister, Maria Ratzinger, who never married, managed Cardinal Ratzinger's household until her death in 1991.
At the age of five, Ratzinger was in a group of children who welcomed the visiting Cardinal Archbishop of Munich, Michael von Faulhaber, with flowers. Struck by the cardinal's distinctive garb, he announced later that day that he wanted to be a cardinal. He attended the elementary school in Aschau am Inn, which was renamed in his honour in 2009.
Ratzinger's family, especially his father, bitterly resented the Nazis, and his father's opposition to Nazism resulted in demotions and harassment of the family. Following his 14th birthday in 1941, Ratzinger was conscripted into the Hitler Youth—as membership was required by law for all 14-year-old German boys after March 1939—but was an unenthusiastic member who refused to attend meetings, according to his brother. In 1941, one of Ratzinger's cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was taken away by the Nazi regime and murdered during the Action T4 campaign of Nazi eugenics. In 1943, while still in seminary, he was drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps as Luftwaffenhelfer. Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry. As the Allied front drew closer to his post in 1945, he deserted back to his family's home in Traunstein after his unit had ceased to exist, just as American troops established a headquarters in the Ratzinger household. As a German soldier, he was interned in a prisoner of war camp, but released a few months later at the end of the war in May 1945.
Ratzinger and his brother Georg entered Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein in November 1945, later studying at the Ducal Georgianum of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. They were both ordained in Freising on 29 June 1951 by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber of Munich. Ratzinger recalled: "at the moment the elderly Archbishop laid his hands on me, a little birdperhaps a larkflew up from the altar in the high cathedral and trilled a little joyful song."
Ratzinger's 1953 dissertation was on St. Augustine and was titled The People and the House of God in Augustine's Doctrine of the Church. His habilitation was on Bonaventure. It was completed in 1957 and he became a professor of Freising College in 1958.

Encounter with Romano Guardini

In his early twenties, he was deeply influenced by the thought of Italian German Romano Guardini who taught in Munich 1946 to 1951 when Ratzinger was studying in Freising and later at the University of Munich. The intellectual affinity between these two thinkers, who would later become decisive figures for the twentieth-century Church, was preoccupied with rediscovering the essential in Christianity: Guardini wrote his 1938 "The Essence of Christianity," while Ratzinger penned "Introduction to Christianity," three decades later in 1968. Guardini inspired many in the Catholic social-democratic tradition, particularly the Communion and Liberation movement in the New Evangelization encouraged under the papacy of Polish Pope John Paul II. Ratzinger wrote an introduction to a 1996 reissue of Guardini's 1954 "The Lord".

Pre-papal career

Academic career: 1951–1977

Ratzinger became a professor at the University of Bonn in 1959, with his inaugural lecture on "The God of Faith and the God of Philosophy". In 1963, he moved to the University of Münster. During this period, he participated in the Second Vatican Council and served as a peritus to Cardinal Frings of Cologne. He was viewed during the time of the council as a reformer, cooperating with theologians like Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx. Ratzinger became an admirer of Karl Rahner, a well-known academic theologian of the Nouvelle Théologie and a proponent of church reform.
In 1966, Ratzinger was appointed to a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen, where he was a colleague of Hans Küng. In his 1968 book Introduction to Christianity, he wrote that the pope has a duty to hear differing voices within the Church before making a decision, and he downplayed the centrality of the papacy. During this time, he distanced himself from the atmosphere of Tübingen and the Marxist leanings of the student movement of the 1960s that quickly radicalised, in the years 1967 and 1968, culminating in a series of disturbances and riots in April and May 1968. Ratzinger came increasingly to see these and associated developments as connected to a departure from traditional Catholic teachings. Despite his reformist bent, his views increasingly came to contrast with the liberal ideas gaining currency in theological circles.
Some voices, among them Küng, deem this a turn towards conservatism, while Ratzinger himself said in a 1993 interview, "I see no break in my views as a theologian ". Ratzinger continued to defend the work of the Second Vatican Council, including Nostra aetate, the document on respect of other religions, ecumenism and the declaration of the right to freedom of religion. Later, as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger most clearly spelled out the Catholic Church's position on other religions in the 2000 document Dominus Iesus which also talks about the Catholic way to engage in "ecumenical dialogue". During his time at Tübingen University, Ratzinger published articles in the reformist theological journal Concilium, though he increasingly chose less reformist themes than other contributors to the magazine such as Küng and Schillebeeckx.
In 1969, he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg and co-founded the theological journal Communio, with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Walter Kasper and others, in 1972. Communio, now published in seventeen languages, including German, English and Spanish, has become a prominent journal of contemporary Catholic theological thought. Until his election as pope, he remained one of the journal's most prolific contributors. In 1976, he suggested that the Augsburg Confession might possibly be recognised as a Catholic statement of faith. Several of Benedict's former students became his confidantes, notably Christoph Schönborn, and a number of his former students sometimes meet for discussions. He served as Vice President of the University of Regensburg from 1976 to 1977.