Pope Benedict XVI
Elected after only a few ballots on April 19, 2005, this former Cardinal from Germany and former Dean of the College of Cardinals at the Vatican is seen as being as conservative as the previous Pope, John-Paul II.
Born April 16, 1927 in Germany, Joseph Ratzinger, now 78 years old, grew up in the Nazi regime of Adolph Hitler and for a while he was “drafted” statutorily into the Hitler Youth movement and later became a German soldier in training before his desertion from the Army and interest in the Priesthood led him to become interned at a POW camp that was liberated by Allied soldiers.
He grew up as a Bavarian. His father was a policeman. Just before he was forced into the German army by conscription he had been training at the Traunstein seminary to enter the Priesthood. After the war he became a strong anti-Communist and later an anti-feminist. He speaks 10 languages. He was involved in the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65, which resulted in the introductions of doctrines that modernized the church (such as saying Mass in local languages, doing away with “no meat on Friday” among other “liberalization’s”). During this period he was an advocate of reform, but, it would seem, conservative reform. There would be no married Priests (such as exist in the Eastern Catholic religions), no women Priests (although women were given a wider role in the Church). No freedom to use contraception or obtain a divorce (and he is opposed to all of these radical desires).
He was Chaired in the Theology department at the University of Tuebingen in the heart of the radical 1960’s, this is when he developed his theory that the “abuse of faith had to be resisted precisely.” This came as a result of demonstrations, protests and vocal battles with many Marxist students at the University, some of whom where in his theology classes.
At the turn of 1970 he returned to Bavaria teaching at the Regensburg University, eventually becoming the Dean of the University and later its Vice-President.
By 1977 Pope Paul VI had named him Cardinal of Munich, Germany. In 1981 Cardinal Ratzinger became head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (or Holy Office of the Inquisition) and throughout the years of Pope John Paul II he was a close advisor and “prefect of doctrine” where he enforced the Church rules and policies as infallibly decided by the Pope. In that position he had influence over the budget, transfers of Bishops and the power of Excommunication. He used the powers of his office to clamp down on the radical advocates within the Church.
Some Germans and women are not happy with the choice of Ratzinger as Pope, nor are those in South and North America. They don’t see him as implementing a broader role for women, nor is he seen as addressing the needs of the poor in Latin America nor the needs of the liberal church elders and members of the United States.
He is the second oldest Pope on record and the first German in about a thousand years.
Pope Benedict XVI has made it a cornerstone of his Papacy to unify all Christians and Christian religions (or at least smooth over relations, as unification is a massive task), especially bridging the gap between Roman and Eastern Catholics, as well as with the Muslims. He first, however, must overcome his own past as in 2000 he criticized some Protestant Churchs as "not being proper churchs," while Protestants broke with the Catholic church because they didn't consider it a proper church! This kind of a legacy on both sides is going to make reconcilliation troublesome, at best...