Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus PP. XVI; Italian: Benedetto XVI; German: Benedikt XVI.; born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger on 16 April 1927) is the 265th Pope, a position in which he serves dual roles as Sovereign of the Vatican City State and leader of the Catholic Church.
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Benedict XVI was elected Pope at the age of 78. He is the oldest person to have been elected Pope since Pope Clement XII (1730–40).
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As Pope, he is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter the Apostle. Benedict XVI was elected on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005, and took possession of his cathedral, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, on 7 May 2005.
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Born in 1927 in Marktl, Bavaria, Germany, Ratzinger had a distinguished career as a university theologian before being appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising by Pope Paul VI (1963–78). A native of Bavaria, Pope Benedict XVI has both German and Vatican citizenship.
He is the ninth German Pope, the eighth having been the Dutch-German Pope Adrian VI (1522–23) from Utrecht.Ordained as a priest in 1951, Ratzinger established himself as a highly regarded university theologian by the late 1950s and was appointed a full Professor in 1958. He had served longer as a cardinal than any Pope since Benedict XIII (1724–30).
After a long career as an academic, serving as a professor of theology at several German universities—the last being the University of Regensburg—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 settled in Rome when he became 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, and as such the primus inter pares among the cardinals.
Prior to becoming Pope, he was "a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century" as "one of the most respected, influential and controversial members of the College of Cardinals"; he had an influence "second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions" as one of Pope John Paul II's closest confidants.
Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI is theologically conservative and his teaching and prolific writings defend traditional Catholic doctrine and values. During his papacy, Benedict XVI has advocated a return to fundamental Christian values to counter the increased secularisation of many developed 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 teaches the importance of both the Catholic Church and an understanding of God's redemptive love.
He has reaffirmed the "importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work.
"Pope Benedict has also revived a number of traditions including elevating the Tridentine Mass to a more prominent position.Even before becoming Pope, Ratzinger was one of the most influential men in the Roman Curia, and was a close associate of John Paul II.
As Dean of the College of Cardinals, he presided over the funeral of John Paul II and over the Mass immediately preceding the 2005 conclave in which he was elected. During the service, he called on the assembled cardinals to hold fast to the doctrine of the faith.
He was the public face of the church in the sede vacante period, although, technically, he ranked below the Camerlengo in administrative authority during that time. Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI affirms traditional Catholic doctrine.
In addition to his native German, Benedict speaks French and Italian fluently. He also has a very good command of Latin and speaks English and Spanish adequately. Furthermore, he has some 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 Acadmie des sciences morales et politiques. He plays the piano and has a preference for Mozart and Bach.