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BENEDICT XVI

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265th Pope of the Catholic Church

BEGINNING PONTIFICATE April, 19th 2005
END PONTIFICATE February, 28th 2013
SECULAR NAME Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger
BIRTH April, 16th 1927 in Marktl am Inn (Bavaria, Germany)

Short bio

Pope Benedict XVI was the seventh German pontiff in the history of the Catholic Church. He was elected in 2005 by the conclave following the death of John Paul II and served as pope until his resignation at the begining of 2013.
He was born in a Catholic family of farmers in Lower Bavaria, Germany, but grew up in a little town at the border with Austria.
After passing the harsh times of Second World War, during which is was forcefully enrolled in an auxiliary anti-aircraft corps until September 1944, in 1946 he studied philosophy and theology at Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and at the University of Munich. In 1951, at the age of 24, he was ordered priest.
By the end of the ‘50s he was already a renowned theologian in the academic world and in 1958 he was nominated full professor. It followed an esteemed career as a professor of theology at the most eminent German universities. Due to his notable scientific activity he was called to attend the Vatican Council II with the role of “expert” from 1962 to 1965: at this watershed event he was indeed the theological advisor of Cardinal Joseph Frings, Archbishop of Cologne. His career culminated with meaningful promotions far beyond the academic context: in 1977 Pope Paul VI named him firstly Archbishop of Munich and Freising, and subsequently cardinal.
Under Pope John Paul II he covered increasingly important roles in the Catholic Church: in 1981 he was elected Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (for centuries a top dicastery in the Roman Curia) and President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission. He resigned from his pastoral assignment in Germany and moved to Rome. In 1993 the John Paul II appointed him a bishop.
He covered several primary roles during the following decade until he was elected as pope, such as from 2002 that of Dean of the College of Cardinals, the most honorable position among the cardinals.
Before becoming Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger was one of the most influential personalities in the Catholic Church, a reference point for anything related to Church priorities and directions; notably, he was also one of the closest confidants of Pope John Paul II.
On 11 February 2013, Benedict announced his resignation in a speech in Latin before the cardinals, due to a "lack of strength of mind and body" to be connected to his old age. His resignation became effective on 28 February 2013. From then he is entitled Pope Emeritus, retaining the honorific “His Holiness” and the white color papal attire. On March 13th 2013 Jorge Mario Bergoglio rose to the papacy with the name of Francis I, while Joseph Ratzinger moved to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery for his retirement on 2 May 2013.He is the eighth pope to give up the pontifical ministry, if we consider only the cases ascertained by reliable historical sources, the last case being recorded in 1415.

Did you know that…
During a public conference at the Vatican in 1996, the then Cardinal Ratzinger reported an episode dating back to the Second World War and revealing his firts-hand experience of the Nazi’s policy of eutanasia for handicapped. Ratzinger had indeed a cousin suffering from Down syndrome who was just few months younger than him. In 1941 the fourteen-years-old boy was carried away by the Nazi authorities to be subjected to a “treatment”. The family was told shortly after that he had died; he had been presumibly classified as an “undesiderable” and consequently eliminated as by the Nazi eugenic programme.
Once elected as pope, Joseph Ratzinger’s choice of the name fell on Benedict to ideally reconnect to the peace promoting role of Benedict XV, pontiff during the tragic age of the First World War which he had strongly opposed to.