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Joseph Ratzinger's Biography

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Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI on 19 April 2005, was born on 16 April 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Germany.

Before the death of Pope John Paul II, who was Pontiff for 27 years, Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, held the positions of Prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition), President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and International Theological Commission, and Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Ratzinger had presided over Pope John Paul II's funeral and was said to be among the previous pontiff's closest friends.

Joseph Ratzinger's father was a police officer, and when he was 14, Ratzinger joined the Hitler Youth.

Towards the end of World War II, Joseph Ratzinger served in the German auxiliary anti-aircraft service, but he deserted the German army and was briefly held as a prisoner of war by the Allies in 1945.

From 1946 to 1951, Ratzinger studied philosophy and theology at the University of Munich and at the higher school in Freising. He was ordained a priest on 29 June 1951.

Joseph Ratzinger taught theology and dogma and also wrote many books. In 1962 he became a consultor at Vatican Council II, of the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings.

In March 1977, Paul VI elected Ratzinger Archbishop of Munich, and on 27 June 1977 he was created and proclaimed Cardinal by Paul VI.

It was on 25 November 1981 that the future Pope Benedict XVI was nominated by John Paul II Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; President of the Biblical Commission and of the Pontifical International Theological Commission.

Pope Benedict XVI has been dubbed a doctrinal conservative. When he was a cardinal he campaigned against liberation theology, and described homosexuality as a "tendency" towards an "intrinsic moral evil".

In an interview on the day of Pope Benedict XVI's election, his brother Georg said that Joseph Ratzinger was "like me, not practical or sporty, but intellectual and spiritual."

Pope Benedict XVI was listed in Prospect Magazine's 100 Greatest Thinkers.

In January 2006, Pope Benedict XVI made charity and love a priority in his first encyclical.

In March 2006, The Pope installed his first new cardinals. Notable amongst them were Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow, who was the late Pope John Paul II's private secretary; and William Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco, who was appointed by Benedict XVI last May to replace him as head of the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In September 2006 Pope Benedict XVI caused controversy by quoting the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologos as saying: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

To understand the Pope's approach it is important to see the whole speech. The BBC has helpfully provided the Pope's whole lecture in English - please note this is an adobe document - officially titled: Lecture of the Holy Father, Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg, Tuesday, 12 September 2006.

In April 2008 Pope Benedict XVI visited the USA. His trip was scheduled to include an address to the UN, praying at Ground Zero, celebrating mass at large baseball stadiums and visiting a synagogue.

On 12 December 2012, Pope Benedict XVI sent his first Twitter message using his @pontifex personal account.

In February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI made a surprise announcement that he was resigning as Pope at the end of the month, feeling he was too old to carry on.

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