Pope Benedict XVI was the 265th pope of the Catholic Church and the first from Germany since the 11th century.
Pope Benedict was born Joseph Ratzinger in Marktl am Inn, Germany, on April 16, 1927. His father, a policeman, moved frequently, and the family left when he was 2.
He has an older brother, Georg -- former director of the renowned Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir.
He spent his childhood and adolescence in Traunstein, a small village near the Austrian border. During that time, the Nazi regime pursued a hostile attitude toward the Catholic Church. The young Joseph saw how some Nazis beat a parish priest before the celebration of Mass, according to the Vatican's Web site.
Ratzinger went through the harrowing years of Nazi rule. He was drafted as an assistant to a Nazi anti-aircraft unit and also sent to the Austrian-Hungarian border to construct tank barriers. He deserted the Germany army in May 1945.
U.S. soldiers took him prisoner and held him in a POW camp for several weeks. Upon his release, he re-entered the seminary. From 1946 to 1951, he studied philosophy and theology in the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and at the University of Munich.
Ratzinger was ordained a priest in 1951. He left his home of Tuebingen during student protests in the late 1960s and moved to the more conservative University of Regensburg in his birthplace of Bavaria.
From 1962 to 1965, Ratzinger made a notable contribution to Vatican II as an "expert." He was present at the council as theological advisor of Cardinal Joseph Frings, Archbishop of Cologne.
In 1977, he was appointed bishop of Munich. Pope John Paul II named him leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981.
In April 2005, Ratzinger was named to lead the Roman Catholic Church as Pope Benedict XVI.
He is an accomplished pianist who loves Mozart. He speaks several languages, among them Italian and English, as well as his native language German.
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