Joseph Alois Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) came into the world on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, Germany. He was the youngest of 3 siblings.
Joseph Ratzinger’s homelife was a humble one, with mother Maria being a cook, and his father, Joseph, a policeman for the state of Bavaria.
The young Joesph grew up in Germany during Adolf Hitler’s time. His childhood wasn’t easy. He was just 7 when Hitler rose to power and became the leader of the Nazi Party. Later Hitler became chancellor of Germany.
The Nazi regime was hostile toward the Catholic Church, of which the Ratzingers were a part. They were devout Catholics. Joseph Senior spoke out about Hitler and his government, and this got him demoted from being a state police officer to a rural law enforcer. The Ratzingers then took their young family and retired to the town of Traunstein. This is where Joseph junior spent his youth.
Let’s take a look at some other interesting facts about the young Joseph and his road to becoming Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI was the oldest person to be elected pope since 1730.
Interesting Facts about Benedict XVI
1. Ratzinger – early Interest in the Priesthood
Joseph Ratzinger was only 12 when he started showing an interest in becoming a Catholic priest. He commenced studies for the priesthood. at age 12. This was significant because later on he spoke about the biblical significance of the number 12.
It was Joseph’s pastor that recommended he attend Saint Michael’s Seminary in Traunstein. It was in 1939 that he became a student at the seminary which was known for steering young people towards a religious vocation.
Later on, in 1951, Ratzinger was ordained a priest in Bavaria and in 1953 he received a doctorate in theology, an interesting fact about Benedict XVI.
2. The Pope at Home
To relax, Pope Benedict XVI enjoys playing the piano. He enjoys listening to soothing music and his favorite choices are listening to the music of Beethoven and Mozart.
The pope also has a pilot’s license and it wasn’t unusual for him to make use of a helicopter to fly to a Summer holiday destination. It is interesting to note however that the pope never learned to drive a car and never got his driver’s license. He is able to speak several languages fluently – German, English, Spanish, French and Italian. Pope Benedict XVI loves cats and he keeps two of them as pets at his home in Germany. The pope has always loved Bavaria and its beauty and enjoys taking long walks in the countryside.
3. ‘Letters’ Addressed to the Entire Church
During the time that he was pope, Benedict wrote three encyclicals. When he resigned, he had completed the draft of a 4th encyclical. Encyclicals are circular letters from the pope and forwarded to bishops and local churches. Today’s encyclicals are posted on the Vatican website in different languages for everyone to read.
4. Confidante and Adviser
Pope John Paul II was head of the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005. During this time Joseph Ratzinger, who was a cardinal at the time, was his closest friend, adviser and confidante.
When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, Ratzinger was considered to be the favorite to replace him. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope during April of 2005 by the 115 cardinals who took part in the voting. He was 78 years of age, an interesting fact about Benedict XVI.
5. Restores Style and Pomp
Cardinal Ratzinger became identified as Pope Benedict XVI. He re-introduced papal garments and the wearing of the traditional red papal shoes. For ordinary events he wears the traditional white caped cassock.
He restored the use of the papal mozzetta too, last worn by Pope Paul VI. He never wore the papal tiara but opted for a miter instead. Pope John Paul II had very little interest in fashion and certainly wasn’t interested in elaborate papal clothing. People who appreciate fashion have admired Pope Benedict XVI’s style and charisma.
6. An Influential, Illustrious Life
Before being elected pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He certainly had an illustrious life.
During his 8 years of leadership, Pope Benedict XVI brought about some changes that were sometimes controversial to the Catholics. There were quite a number of students who were disappointed with the selection of Joseph Ratzinger as pope. They were wanting a more liberal-minded pope, more so when it came to issues such as women’s rights. Nonetheless he had power over the Catholic Church for about 8 years and was a character with a large influence.
7. Firm Stand on Theological Issues
The Pope was referred to as both ‘The Enforcer’ and ‘God’s rottweiler’ because of his firm stand on theological issues. He admired his charismatic predecessor, but he refused to change his quiet, dignified manner to copy John Paul’s style, an interesting fact about Benedict XVI.
He had been the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer for about 25 years but he wanted to show the world his gentler side. In fact, on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, during his speech, he referred to himself as a ‘humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord’.
8. His Views often Stirred Criticism
Benedict XVI has stirred animosity many times with his ‘take’ on certain issues. While he was committed to Christian unity, he has been criticized by other religions. This is because he approved a document where it said that all other Christian denominations were not full churches of Jesus Christ such as what the Roman Catholic church is.
When questioned about the many sexual allegations in the Roman Catholic Church, this quiet man of the church, who had the conviction that church teachings shouldn’t bend with the times to accommodate human whims, believes that an ex-pope should maintain a vow of silence about church matters.
9. Papal Resignation
The papacy of Benedict XVI ended on 28 February 2013. He was 85 years old. He was the first pope in 600 years to resign, an interesting fact about Benedict XVI. He gave the natural process of aging as his reason for resignation saying that he was experiencing a lack of strength in mind and body. With his resignation, he had the title of Pope Emeritus.
In a public letter printed in an Italian newspaper, Benedict XVI says he ‘is on a pilgrimage toward Home’. This brief note came after the paper asked Pope Emeritus how he was doing.
Currently, Benedict has many health problems of which high blood pressure is one. Pope Emeritus has just recently had his 92nd birthday. For his retirement years, the pope spends his time at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican City.
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