Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (b. April 16, 1927) is a Cardinal Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1981 Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II, made a Cardinal Bishop of the see of Velletri-Segni in 1993, and was elected Dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002, becoming titular bishop of Ostia.
Born in Marktl am Inn, in Bavaria, Germany, Ratzinger entered a preparatory seminary in 1939. In 1943, at the age of 16 he was, along with the rest of his class, drafted into the Flak or anti-aircraft corps. He went into basic training for the Wehrmacht infantry in November of 1944. In 1945 he was interned in a POW camp as a German soldier. By June he was released, and he and his brother (Georg) reentered seminary. On June 29, 1951, he and his brother were ordained by Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich. His dissertation (1953) was on Saint Augustine, his Habilitationsschrift (second dissertation) on Saint Bonaventure.
Ratzinger was a professor at the University of Bonn from 1959 until 1963, when he moved to the University of Muenster. In 1966, he took a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen, where he was a colleague of Hans Küng. In 1969 he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg.
At the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965), Ratzinger served as a peritus or chief theological expert, to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne, Germany.
In 1972, he founded the theological journal Communio with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac and others. Communio, now published in German, English, and Spanish editions, has become one of the most important journals of Catholic thought. In March 1977 Ratzinger was named archbishop of Munich and Freising and in the consistory that June was named a Cardinal by Pope Paul VI.
On November 25, 1981 Pope John Paul II named Ratzinger prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office or the Inquisition. He resigned the Munich archdiocese in early 1982, became cardinal-bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals in 1998, and was elected Dean in 2002. In office, Ratzinger usually takes very conservative views on topics like birth control, inter-religious dialog, and ecumenism.
On September 30, 2003, Ratzinger's statement, "We should pray for the pope", was published by the German weekly Bunte, and subsequently, the quote made headlines worldwide, raising questions about the pope's health and fueling speculation that the pope was nearing death.
On January 2, 2005, TIME quoted unnamed Vatican sources as saying that Ratzinger was a frontrunner to succeed John Paul II should the Pope die or become too ill to continue as Pontiff.