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Posted June 2, 2006

Book: Oxford Dictionary of Popes: Covers Every Pope in History, from St. Peter to Pope Benedict XVI
Author: J.D.N.Kelly
Oxford University Press, NY. 2006. Pp.349

Excerpt from the Jacket:

This acclaimed papal Who's Who presents biographical accounts, in chronological order, of all the officially recognized popes from St. Peter to Pope Benedict XVI. Providing a continuous history of the papacy, it also includes their irregularly elected rivals, the so-called antipopes, and in an appendix discusses the tradition that has been a female pope.

Excerpt from the Book:

Benedict XVI (19 Apr. 2005 - ). The son of Josef, an inspector of police, and his wife Maria, a cook, Josef Ratzinger was born on 16 Apr. 1927 in the small Bavarian village of Marktl-am-Inn north-east of Munich and close to the Marian shrine of Alttoting. Josef's elder brother Georg also became a priest, and a distinguished choirmaster at the cathedral in Regensburg; his sister Maria looked after Josef until her death, in Rome in 1991. In 1929 Josef the elder's duties took the family to Tittmoning, on the border with Austria, then in 1932 to Aschau-am-Inn. When five years later Josef retired the family moved to the country village of Hufschlag on the outskirts of Traunstein. It was this house the younger Josef regarded as home.

He attended the local gymnasium then, in 1939, joined Georg at the minor seminary. The brothers were required, like all students, to join the Hitler Youth, but when the seminary closed and Josef moved back to Traunstein, he never attended meetings: his deeply devout family was opposed to National Socialism. In 1943, Josef was conscripted into an anti-aircraft battery, and shortly afterwards into the army, but as the army disintegrated he again returned home only to be arrested by American troops and briefly interned as a prisoner of war. At the end of the war he studied theology in Munich, defending his doctorate on St. Augustine in 1953. Four years later he completed his Habilitationschrift on salvation history in St. Bonaventure. Alongside Georg he had been ordained by Cardinal Michael Faulhaber in Freising cathedral on 29 June 1951, and lectured on theology at Freising University until 1959, when he became a full professor at the University of Bonn. This position brought him into contact with Cardinal Josef Frings, the Archbishop of Cologne, and Frings took him to Rome as his peritus, or expert adviser, at the Second Vatican Council (1962-5). Frings was one of the Council's leading reformers, and the relatively young Fr. Ratzinger an important theologian working on, among other issues, the Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium. In the middle of the Council he was invited to a professorship at the University of Munster, and at the end of it to one at the prestigious University of Tubingen, thanks in part to his colleague at the Council, Hans Kung, already a professor there. Though he had previously published a good deal, it was his Introduction to Christianity, which appeared in 1968, which brought him to public attention. That same year, however, the student riots, in Tubingen as well as across Europe occasioned a change of heart.

In 1969 he resigned from Tubingen and moved to the peaceful and conservative University of Regensburg. His change of heart is exemplified in his founding, with theologians Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac, of Communio, a journal created in opposition to the more radical Consilium which he had also helped to found, along with Kung and others shortly after the Council. In 1977 he was named Archbishop of Munich by Pope Paul VI, and created a cardinal that same year. He was ordained bishop on 28 May 1977. In 1981 Pope John Paul II called him to Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which post he was responsible for disciplining a number of important theologians, for issuing two documents heavily criticizing 'liberation theology', and in 2000 for Dominus Jesus, which insisted on the superiority of Christianity, and specifically Roman Catholicism, over other world faiths. While Prefect of the Congregation he continued to produce his own books and articles, the latter often in Communio, several of which display his abiding interest in the liturgy. A book-length interview with him, The Ratzinger Report, appeared in 1985. In 1993 he was raised to the rank of cardinal bishop, becoming dean of the college of cardinals in 2002. In that capacity he presided, and preached the homily, at the funeral mass for John Paul II.

In the conclave which followed he was one of only two electors who did not owe their rank to the late Pope. He was elected on the fifth ballot and, on 24 April, he was invested with the pallium as the symbol of his office. This low-key installation indicated how his low-key approach to the papal office as a whole. He removed the tiara from the papal coat of arms, and although he fulfilled in Aug. 2005 the late Pope's commitment to the World Youth Day in Cologne, he has played a much more retiring role than his predecessor.