Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th bishop of Rome, is the spiritual leader of over one billion Catholics. He is a highly-regarded theologian and the author of dozens of books.
He was born Joseph Ratzinger, at Marktl am Inn, Diocese of Passau, Germany, on Holy Saturday, April 16, 1927. He was baptized the same day.
He spent his childhood and adolescence in Traunstein, a small village near the Austrian border, 30 kilometers (less than 20 miles) from Salzburg. In this environment, which he himself has defined as "Mozartian," he received his Christian, cultural, and human formation.
He was ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1951, and earned a doctorate in theology in 1953. Father Ratzinger qualified for university teaching in 1957 and held positions at a number of colleges and universities — ultimately serving in 1969 as chair of dogmatics and history of dogma at the University of Regensburg, where he also was university vice-president.
During the Second Vatican Council Father Ratzinger served as theological advisor to Cardinal Joseph Frings, Archbishop of Cologne.
Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Munich and Freising on March 25, 1977. He received episcopal ordination on May 28, 1977. Archbishop Ratzinger was the first diocesan priest for 80 years to take on the pastoral governance of the great Bavarian Archdiocese.
Less than a month later, Pope Paul VI made him a cardinal.
The Venerable Pope John Paul II named him Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission on Nov. 25, 1981.
He was President of the Preparatory Commission for the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which, after six years of work (1986–1992), presented the new Catechism to the Holy Father.
On Nov. 6, 1998, the Holy Father approved the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals. On Nov. 30, 2002, John Paul II approved Cardinal Ratzinger's election as Dean; together with this office he was entrusted with the Suburbicarian See of Ostia.
As Dean of the College of Cardinals, he presided over John Paul II's funeral ceremonies in 2005, and convened the conclave to elect his successor 10 days later. The College of Cardinals elected Cardinal Ratzinger the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on April 19, 2005.
Pope Benedict XVI is a prolific writer. Introduction to Christianity appeared in 1968. Since then, dozens of his works have been published — including The Ratzinger Report (1985), Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today (1996), Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions (2004), and Jesus of Nazareth I: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (2007).
He also has granted German journalist Peter Seewald audiences that have resulted in three best-selling book-length interviews: Salt of the Earth (1997), God and the World (2002), and Light of the World (2010).