Pope Benedict XVI Biography
He emerged at the window overlooking St. Peter's Square and was greeted with applause and chants of his name. Assuming the title Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany was chosen as the 265th bishop of Rome. He assumes the role of the pope, successor to the late Pope John Paul II.
Pope Benedict XVI was chosen during a conclave--a secret meeting of cardinals from around the world whose purpose is to elect a new pope. During a conclave, cardinals sequester themselves in the Sistine Chapel and cast ballots for a new pope. A two-thirds majority is necessary to elect the new pope; however, if it takes more than 30 rounds of balloting the cardinals can choose the pope by a simple majority vote plus one. If a pope is chosen, white smoke billows from the chimney of the chapel to announce the new pontiff. This year, at the behest of John Paul II, the addition of tolling bells confirmed the appointment. Tuesday, April 19, 2005, marked the second and final necessary day of the short conclave as a decision was reached. White smoke poured from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel as bells tolled, announcing the arrival of the new pope.
Ratzinger was born in the Bavarian region of Germany on April 16, 1927, in the town of Marktl am Inn. He was forced to serve in the Nazi youth movement at the time he entered the seminary in 1939 and was later sent to a German anti-aircraft division. He deserted after being sent to Hungary in 1944, where he saw Jews sent into death camps. In 1945 he was captured by Allied Forces and held as a prisoner of war. In 1951 he was ordained as a priest. In the late 1960s he taught at the University of Tuebingen in Teubingen, Germany. In 1977 he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and later that year was promoted to full on Cardinal of Munich. Pope John Paul II called him to Rome in 1981to head the department once known as the Holy Inquisition.
He was close to John Paul II, and shares much of the same religious conservatism and dogma of the late pope. He is a staunch defender of Catholic doctrine and is expected to carry on in a similar fashion as that of the last pontiff amidst problems and controversies within the Catholic Church. Despite being well-received in St. Peter's Square, he is not a favorable choice for pope according to popularity polls.
Benedict XVI is old for a pope. At 78 he takes on the role of not only the pontiff, but as a world leader and peacemaker. Speculation has it that he was elected because of his age, so as not to transcend the legacy of John Paul II. Ratzinger is the oldest elected pope since Clement XII in 1730 and first Germanic pope in almost a millennium. Whether he's a transitional pope or not remains to be seen. Benedict XVI is said to be in good health, although he had a brain hemorrhage in 1991 and suffered from fatigue only two years ago.
He chose the title "Benedict," which derives from the Latin word for "blessed." The name references the 62nd pope, Benedict I (St. Benedict), a hermit who founded 12 monasteries and created the order of Benedictine Monks. It also reflects upon the influence of the most recent to hold the title, Benedict XV, the Holy See from 1914 to 1922. Benedict XV was known for his diplomatic abilities and quest for peace during wartime; however, he was ignored by the powers involved in World War I.
But the name hasn't been a very lucky one. Benedict I reigned only four years (575-79) despite his monastic creations, and it is speculated his death came in a time of famine. Benedict VI (972-74) was strangled to death by a priest during a rebellion against him. Benedict IX (1032-45) was excommunicated due to his corruption--he became the head of the church when he was just 12 years old. Benedict XI (1303-04) died of suspected poisoning. And Benedict XII was a French pope who ruled from Avignon in the era that began the Eastern Schism, which divided the church and tarnished its image for almost 1,000 years. Only one Benedict has served as pope for more than 13 years.
The new pope looks forward to meeting and speaking with leaders of other world religions and fixing the rifts within his own church, working to unify all Christians. - Kevin Michaels
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