Biography of Pope Benedict XVI

Source: FSSPX News

Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Ratzinger, was born in Marktl am Inn on April 16 1927, a town near Passau (Germany). 

Coming from a long line of farmers from Lower Bavaria, his father was a police commissioner. After an adolescence spent in Traunstein, he was enrolled as an auxiliary in the anti-air defense at the end of the Second World War. From 1946 to 1951, the year of his ordination to the priesthood and the beginning of his teaching career, he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Munich and the College of Freising. He obtained his doctorate in theology in 1953: “People and House of God in the Doctrine of the Church according to St. Augustine”, which was completed in 1957 by defending the thesis entitled: “The theology of history according to St. Bonaventure”.

He was a professor of dogma and fundamental theology at the College of Freising, then at Bonn from 1963 to 1966, and at Tübingen from 1966 to 1969. In 1969, he was named to the chair of dogmatics and the history of dogma at the University of Regensburg and its vice-president. From 1962 he had an international notoriety as consulter of theology to the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings, during the Second Vatican Council, in which he actively participated.

Among the most significant of his works and interventions are: “Introduction to Christianity”, a collection of his university lectures dedicated to the Apostolic Faith (1968), “Dogma and Revelation”, a series of reflections (1973), his address to the Catholic Academy of Bavaria: “Why I am still in the Church”, in which he affirmed: “One cannot be Christian except in the Church, not beside Her”, and finally, his “Report on the Faith” of 1996.

On March 24, 1977, Paul VI named him Archbishop of Munich-Freising and he received episcopal consecration the following May 28. He was the first local priest to occupy this major see in 80 years.

After being made a cardinal in 1977 by the same pope, he was reporter of the fifth Synod of Bishops (1980): “The missions of the Christian family in the world today”, then president of the sixth synod (1983): “Reconciliation and Penance in the mission of the Church”.

On November 25, 1981, John-Paul II named him Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the Pontifical International Theological Commission.

On April 5, 1993, he entered the Order of Cardinal Bishops, titular of the church of Velletri-Segni.

On November 6, 1998, he was elected Vice-Dean of the Sacred College. On November 30, 2002, the Holy Father approved his election by the Cardinals of the Order of Bishops as Dean of the Sacred College.

He was President of the Commission for the Preparation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and after six years of work (1986-1992) he presented the new Catechism to the Holy Father.

On November 10, 1999, he received a doctorate honoris causa in jurisprudence from LUMSA. Since November 13, 2000, he has been an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Paul VI had made him a cardinal in the consistory of June 27, 1977, with titles to the churches of Velletri-Segni (April 5, 1993) and Ostia (November 30, 2002), having previously had the one for St. Mary Consolatrix in Tiburtino.

He was a member of the Council of the Second Section of the Secretariat of State; of the Congregations for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, of Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for Catholic Education, of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, of the Pontifical Commissions for Latin America and Ecclesia Dei.