Born as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in 1927, Benedict grew up in a turbulent time for Germany, then known as the Weimar Republic, in the village of Marktl which sits close to the German-Austrian border.
During the Nazi regime of the 1930s and 40s, Benedict’s family was harassed by the German government as his father, along with many other German Catholics, staunchly opposed the policies implemented by the Nazis. During the war, Benedict was drafted into the German anti-air corps in 1943 while attending seminary. Sometime thereafter, he deserted his post before being sent to the front, where he returned to his family’s home in Traunstein. Upon returning home, he was arrested by allied troops occupying the city and spent some time as a POW before being released a few months later.
Soon after the end of World War II, Benedict returned to seminary. He was ordained by Archbishop Michael von Faulhaber alongside his older brother, Georg. He spent many years teaching at various universities across Europe as a professor of Theology before being appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977, by Pope Paul VI. In doing so he was also made a cardinal. He also spent some time as Chief theological adviser to Pope John Paul II. From 2002 until his election as Pope, Benedict held the title of Dean of the College of Cardinals.
In 2005 he was elected Pope and retained office before resigning in 2013 citing his advancing age, as well as the physical demands of being Pope. He was the first Pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII ended the “Western Schism” in 1415. After his resignation, Benedict took up residence at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican City where he continued his writing and studies. He has also continually interacted with and advised his successor, Pope Francis, through meetings and various other events.
He died December 31st, 2022 at the age of 95 in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery. His funeral will take place on January 5th, 2023.
In his first remarks regarding the news, Pope Francis stated, “Gratitude to him for all the good he accomplished and above all for his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his life. Only God knows the value of his sacrifices for the good of the church.”