The most famous “Joseph” in the world today is Joseph Ratzinger; now known as Pope Benedict XVI. Joseph Ratzinger was born on April 16, 1927 in the town Marktl am Inn, Bavaria. He was the third and youngest child of Joseph and Maria Ratzinger. His older brother, Georg, also a priest, was the former head of the prestigious Regensburger choir. His sister, Maria, never married and ran his personal household until her death in 1991.
Surviving both conscription into the Hitler Youth and the German Infantry during the Second World War, Joseph Ratzinger was released from a prisoner of war camp in June of 1945 and with his brother re-entered the seminary they were forced out of in 1943 in November of 1945. He and his brother finished their theological studies in 1951 and were both ordained to the priesthood on June 29th of the same year by Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich on the Feast of S.S Peter and Paul.
After his ordination, Father Joseph Ratzinger returned to academia receiving his doctorate in theology from the University of Munich in 1953. By 1959 he began teaching at the University of Bonn courses in fundamental Theology. From 1962 through 1965 Ratzinger was present during all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, acting as the chief theological advisor to Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne, Germany. During that same period, he taught at the University of Muenster and the University of Tübingen. In 1969 he returned to Bavaria, to teach at the prestigious the University of Regensburg.
In March 1977 Ratzinger was named archbishop of Munich and Freising and in the consistory that same year was named a Cardinal by Pope Paul VI.
In 1981 Pope John Paul II named Cardinal Ratzinger prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He resigned the Munich archdiocese in early 1982, became cardinal-bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals in 1998, and was elected Dean in 2002. Having tendered his resignation no less than three times to Pope John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger wished to spend his retirement at his home in the Bavarian village of Pentling near Regensburg. The death of Pope John Paul II on April 2, 2005 left the Cardinal’s future in doubt.
On 19 April 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II on the second day of the papal conclave after four ballots. His hopes for a quiet retirement dashed. At 78 years old, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was the oldest man to be elected Pope since Clement XII (1730-1740).
Cardinal Ratzinger took the name “Benedict” in gratitude for Pope Benedict the XV who was Pope during the First World War and for the co-Patron of Europe St. Benedict of Nursia founder of the Benedictine religious order. At his installation, Pope Benedict XVI believed the main thrust of his pontificate was to promote the “re-Christianization” of Europe, through battling the “dictatorship of relativism” that has pervaded Western culture.
In his five years has Pope, Benedict XVI has written three encyclicals , Deus Caritas Est ("God is Love"), Spe Salvi ("Saved by Hope"), and Caritas in Veritate ("Love in Truth"). He has published two books, “Jesus of Nazareth: from the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration” and “The Apostles.” He Liberalized the pre-conciliar “Tridentine Mass” with his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, approved a new English translation of the Novus Ordo, and is in reconciliation talks with the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). In recent months, the Pope has had to combat a new round of clerical abuse scandals throughout Europe. The Pope turned 83 in April.