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Pope Benedict XVI Timeline: 1927-1972


April 16, 1927
Josef Alois Ratzinger is born in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Germany, and is baptized on the same day, Holy Saturday.

Enters the minor seminary in Traunstein.

Josef Ratzinger turns 14 and, as required by law at the time, he joins the Hitler Youth.

At age 16, Josef Ratzinger and the rest of his seminary class are drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps. A year later he is drafted into the Austrian Legion, and undergoes basic training in the German infantry.

In the Spring, Josef Ratzinger deserts the army and returns home to Traunstein. He is briefly held by American forces in a prisoner of war camp. After he is released, he and his brother Georg reenter the seminary.

Studies philosophy and theology at the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and the Herzogliches Georgianum, a theological institute associated with the University of Munich.

June 29, 1951
Josef Ratzinger and brother Georg are ordained into the priesthood by Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich.

Begins teaching at the Higher School of Freising.

In July, Father Ratzinger receives his doctorate in theology from the University of Munich. The title of his thesis is People and House of God in St. Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church.

Qualifies for university teaching. Writes his dissertation on The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure.

Begins lecturing as a full time professor of fundamental theology at the University of Bonn.  On August 23, his father dies.

Participates in all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council as chief theological advisor to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne, Germany.

Starts teaching at the University of Münster. On December 16, his mother dies.

Accepts a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen.

The wave of student uprisings driven, in large part, by Marxist ideologies and the rejection of traditional religion upsets Father Ratzinger. He becomes disillusioned with the liberal atmosphere at Tübingen and returns to Bavaria to teach at the University of Regensburg.

Founds, together with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac and other renowned theologians, the quarterly journal of Catholic theology Communio.

March 25, 1977
Appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising by Pope Paul VI.

May 28, 1977

Ordained bishop. Father Ratzinger is the first diocesan priest in 80 years to take on the pastoral governance of the Bavarian archdiocese. Chooses as his Episcopal motto: “Cooperators of the Truth.”


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