Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Ratzinger, was born on April 16, 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Germany. He was ordained a priest on June 29, 1951. His father, a police officer, came from a traditional family of farmers from Lower Bavaria.
He spent his adolescent years in Traunstein, and was called into the auxiliary anti-aircraft service in the last months of World War II. From 1946 to 1951, the year in which he was ordained a priest and began to teach, he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Munich and at the higher school in Freising. In 1953, he obtained a doctorate in theology with a thesis entitled: “The People and House of God in St. Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church”. Four years later, he qualified as a university teacher. He then taught dogma and fundamental theology at the higher school of philosophy and theology of Freising, then in Bonn from 1959 to 1969, in Münster from 1963 to 1966, and in Tubinga from 1966 to 1969. In 1969, he became a professor of dogmatic theology and of the history of dogma at the University of Regensburg and Vice President of the same university.
In 1962 he was already well known when, at the age of 35, he became a consultor of the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings, at the Second Vatican Council. His numerous publications, include the ‘Introduction to Christianity’, a collection of university lessons on the profession of apostolic faith, published in 1968 and “Dogma and Revelation,” an anthology of essays, sermons and reflections dedicated to the pastoral ministry, published in 1973.
In March 1977, Pope Paul VI named Fr. Ratzinger Archbishop of Munich and Freising and on May 28, 1977 he was consecrated—the first diocesan priest in 80 years to take over the pastoral ministry of the large Bavarian diocese. Paul VI elevated him to the College of Cardinals in the consistory of June 27, 1977.
On November 25, 1981, he was nominated by John Paul II to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals on November 6, 1998. On November 30, 2002, he was elected as Dean of the College of Cardinals.
He served as President of the Commission for the Preparation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and after 6 years of work, he presented the New Catechism to the Holy Father in 1992.
Following the death of John Paul II on April 2, 2005, and his funeral on April 8, Cardinal Ratzinger presided over the conclave to elect a new pope as dean of the College of Cardinals. The conclave opened on April 18 and Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the 265th Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church on April 19, 2005. He chose the name “Benedict” and became Pope Benedict XVI.