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Biography: Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI

Biography: Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI

Short Summary of the Life of Pope Benedict XVI

By Austin Cline

Pope Benedict XVI


Here is a chronological summary of the life of Josef Ratzinger, now elected Pope Benedict XVI. This timeline of Josef Ratzinger’s life focuses on events that were important to this religious life — his ordination, his elevation to archbishop, and his election to pope.

Josef Ratzinger is born on April 16, Holy Saturday, and is baptized that day. His father is a rural policeman.

Josef Ratzinger enrolls in the seminary in Traunstein.

Josef Ratzinger joins the Hitler Youth, as is required of all German youth when they reach the age of 14.

Josef Ratzinger and his seminary class are drafted into an anti-aircraft unit of the German army. He would be released the next year and then drafted into the Austrian Legion, an infamous group that brutalized others.

In the Spring, Josef Ratzinger deserts the military and goes home to Traunstein.

Josef Ratzinger enrolls in the Herzogliches Georgianum, a theological school in Munich.

Josef Ratzinger is ordained into the priesthood on June 29.

In July, Josef Ratzinger is awarded a doctorate in theology by the University of Munich.

On August 23, Josef Ratzinger’s father dies.

1962 – 1965
Josef Ratzinger participates in all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council as chief theological advisor to Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne, Germany.

On December 16, Josef Ratzinger’s mother dies.

Josef Ratzinger becomes chair of dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen, a position supported by his friend professor Hans Küng.

European campuses are swept up in a series of student uprisings driven in large part by Marxist ideologies. The wholesale rejection of traditional religion outrages Josef Ratzinger, turning him away from his earlier liberalism and causing him to embrace more orthodox Catholicism. The next year he would return to Bavaria to teach at the University of Regensburg.

On March 24, Josef Ratzinger becomes Archbishop of Munich and Freising. He would be ordained May 28.

On June 27, Josef Ratzinger is made Cardinal of Munich by Pope Paul VI.

On November 25, Josef Ratzinger is named by Pope John Paul II as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope John Paul II names Josef Ratzinger a Cardinal Bishop of the episcopal see of Velletri-Segni.

Josef Ratzinger is named vice-dean of the College of Cardinals.

In November, Josef Ratzinger is elected dean of the College of Cardinals. This means that he is now also Cardinal Bishop of Ostia.

On April 19, Josef Ratzinger is elected pope and adopts the name Pope Benedict XVI, evidently in honor of St. Benedict, founder of western monasticism, and Pope Benedict XV, leader of the Catholic church during World War I.

On April 24, Benedict XVI is formally inaugurated as pope.

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