Joseph Ratzinger is 92 years old, is Pope Emeritus, (he no longer holds the role of pope, but retains the style of His Holiness) and lives in the Vatican, in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.

He was born in Marktl am Inn in Bavaria on the 16th of April, 1927, son of a police officer and a cook. His brother Georg also became a priest and his sister Maria, who died in 1991, would look after his residence when he became a cardinal.

He joined the Seminary when he was 12, but his youth was scarred by Nazism. His father, a solid practising catholic, wass against the regime and the Ratzinger family moved several times. One of his cousins who suffered from Down syndrome was murdered by the “Action T4” campaign during its ‘extermination of the disabled’ programme.

At 16 – during the war – he was drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps, but he never took part in battle. With the fall of Hitler he was captured and interned in an Allied prisoner of war camp in Ulm for a short while.

He was ordained in 1951, was a theologian and then University professor (Freising, Bonn e Muenster): he supported classical culture as the foundation of Christian theology, fighting ideologies of the protests of 1968.

He participated in the second Vatican Council as a scholar.

In 1977 Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Munich and Freising and cardinal (and he took part in the two conclaves of 1978).

He was Prefect for the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 and Deacon of the College of Cardinals from 2002.

He was appreciated by St. John Paul II for his defence of "non-negotiable" bioethical issues, but also for taking a stand on the paedophile clergy scandal, bringing the trials to the Vatican.

After the fall of Communism, he criticized the new plagues of individualism, neoliberalism and the clash of civilizations.

The Pontiff

On April 19th, 2005 he entered the conclave as a cardinal, and left as Pope in 24 hours, the seventh German pope (after Steven IX, †1058).

He took the papal name of St. Benedict, founder of Latin monasticism and witness of the decay of the late Roman period, of whom he says: “we need men like Benedict, who in a period of decay (…) founded Montecassino”, the driving force of a new world.

In 8 years of his papacy he promulgated 3 encyclicals, made 23 apostolic journeys, beatified Pius XII and John Paul II (without waiting for the canonical 5 years) and changed the head of the IOR.

He does not have the media charisma of his predecessor and restores preconciliar vestments, but he is a pope who fights against ecclesiastical careerism, and defends the Catholic identity from that “multiculturalism that wants to eradicate the roots of peoples”.

After the release of confidential papers from his butler (condemned but pardoned), on 11th February 2013 the pope renounced his mandate (an act foreseen by the canonical order) declaring himself weak in strength and showing his love for the Church, avoiding the problems of a fragile leader in such a complex historical moment.

The man

Joseph is an intellectual. His Jesus of Nazareth was an editorial success worldwide, and he has thousands of publications under his belt.

He has a modest lifestyle, loves reading and listens to classical music (he plays the piano and his preferences are for Mozart, Bach and Beethoven).

He has a peaceful relationship with Pope Francis.

He's on a diet but on his birthday he doesn't renounce a Bavarian-style party with friends and relatives: food and beer from his homeland, and holding a beer-glass to toast with in his hand. He is very close to Bavaria and is an honorary member of the Bayern Munich Football Club.

He loves cats and when he was a cardinal in the Vatican he fed the small local feline colony, which then followed him to the Palazzo della Congregazione.

He is the traditionalist who opened the Church to the most recent media, opening the Twitter profile "@pontifex".