A Historical Look at Pope Benedict XVI

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany was elected as Supreme Pontiff Tuesday, after a second day of voting by the first conclave of the new millennium. With the name Benedict XVI, the new pope will succeed the late Pope John Paul II and will serve as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church’s 1.1 billion followers.

“I announce to you with great joy … we have a Pope,” announced Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, less than an hour after white smoke billowed out of a thin copper chimney atop the Sistine Chapel, indicating the election of the first new pope of the third millennium.

Ratzinger, who turned 78 on Saturday, was the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission, and Dean of the College of Cardinals, according to an official biography released by the Vatican.

The former Cardinal studied philosophy and theology at the University of Munich and at the higher school in Freising, Germany from 1946 to 1951 before being ordained as a priest on June 29, 1951.

In 1953, Ratzinger obtained a doctorate in theology with a thesis entitled: "The People and House of God in St. Augustine's doctrine of the Church." Four years later, he qualified as a university teacher.

Between the years of 1959 and 1969, Ratzinger taught dogma and fundamental theology at the higher school of philosophy and theology of Freising and in the German cities of Bonn, Munster, Tubinga. From 1969, he was professor of dogmatic theology and of the history of dogma at the University of Regensburg and vice president of the same university.

By the time he became a consultor to the archbishop of Cologne at Vatican Council II in 1962, 35-year-old Ratziinger was already well known. Among his numerous publications, a particular post belongs to the "Introduction to Christianity," a collection of university lessons on the profession of apostolic faith, published in 1968; and to "Dogma and Revelation" an anthology of essays, sermons and reflections dedicated to the pastoral ministry, published in 1973.

In March 1977, Paul VI appointed Ratzinger Archbishop of Munich and Freising and on May 28, 1977 he was consecrated – the first diocesan priest after 80 years to take over the pastoral ministry of this large Bavarian diocese.

Created and proclaimed cardinal by Paul VI in the consistory of June 27, 1977, Ratzinger assumed the titles of the suburbicarian Church of Velletri-Segni (Apr. 5, 1993) and of the suburbicarian Church of Ostia (Nov. 30, 2002).

On Nov. 25, 1981, he was nominated by John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and as president of the Biblical Commission and of the Pontifical International Theological Commission.

He was also relator of the 5th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1980), and president delegate to the 6th Synodal Assembly (1983).

On Nov. 6, 1998, Ratzinger was elected vice dean of the College of Cardinals, and on Nov. 30, 2002, John Paul II approved his election as dean of the College of Cardinals by the order of cardinal bishops.

As President of the Commission for the Preparation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ratzinger presented the New Catechism to the John Paul II after 6 years of work (1986-92).

And on Nov. 10, 1999, Ratzinger received an honoris causa degree in jurisprudence from the Free University of Maria Santissima Assunta. He became an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Nov. 13, 2000.

Immediately after Ratzinger’s election of the new Pontiff, Vatican Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls made the following statement:

"The conclave having ended, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has decided to eat this evening with all the other cardinals in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he will also spend the night.

"Tomorrow morning at 9, the Pope will preside the Eucharistic Celebration with the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel and will deliver the homily in Latin.”

Navarro-Valls announced that the Mass for the solemn inauguration of the pontificate would be celebrated at St. Peter's on Sunday, Apr. 24 at 10 a.m.