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  • Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI, grew up in Germany as the Nazi regime was gaining power. He entered the seminary in 1939, the same year he was required to join the Hitler Youth. Ratzinger was drafted into the anti-aircraft corps while still in the seminary (pictured in 1943). He was held in a prisoner of war camp but released after a few months later. Prior to being elected pope in 2005, he had served as the Church’s chief doctrinal watchdog during Pope John Paul II’s papacy. Pope Benedict resigned in 2013, becoming the first Pope to step down in nearly 600 years.
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  • Joseph Ratzinger was the youngest of three children, born to Joseph Ratzinger, Sr., a policeman and defiant anti-Nazi. He and his older brother, Georg, would both become priests, ordained on the same day. Joseph Ratzinger is shown with his family: brother Georg, father Joseph, mother Maria and sister Maria, on the day of the two brothers' ordination to the priesthood, July 8, 1951.
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  • Joseph Ratzinger celebrates Mass at a mountain site near the Bavarian town of Ruhpolding, Germany, in the summer of 1952.
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  • Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger taking office in Munich, circa 1977.
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  • Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, during an interview in his palace in Munich, circa 1980. He was made a cardinal by Pope Paul V in 1977.
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  • Pope John Paul II, seated at a table in the Old Consistorial Hall, signs the new Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law during a ceremony at the Vatican, in Rome, on Jan. 25, 1983. The new, more streamlined set of church laws retain automatic excommunication for abortion and makes marriage annulments more complex. Attending are West German Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, and Venezuelan Archbishop Rosalio Jose Castillo Lara, Chairman of the Vatican commission that has been revising the code for the last two decades.
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  • Joseph Ratzinger’s ordination as Archbishop on May 28, 1997, in Munich, with Bavarian Prime Minister Alfons Goppel. He would remain archbishop until early 1982 when he resigned in light of his new duties as Prefect.
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  • Books by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger are on display in a Munich bookshop, April 22, 2005. Ratzinger was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican from 1981 to 2005 and served as Pope John Paul II's chief doctrinal officer and key advisor during that time. A revered prelate, scholar, theologian, teacher and Catholic author, Ratzinger’s writings spanned a variety of subjects and included a three volume work on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
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  • Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger blesses Pope John Paul II's coffin at his funeral in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, April 8, 2005, six days after his death on April 2. Pope John Paul II died at the age of 84 after almost 27 years as pope. As dean of the college of cardinals, Ratzinger delivered the homily at the ceremony and said, "We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father's house, that he sees and blesses us." He had been one of Pope John Paul’s closest advisers and had assisted him greatly when the Pope became ill and frail towards the end of his life.
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  • Pope Benedict XVI appears on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, April 19, 2005, Vatican City.
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  • Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, April 19, 2005, soon after his election. Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who chose the name of Pope Benedict XVI, officially started his pontificate, aged 78, as the 265th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church on April 24, 2005.
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  • Pope Benedict XVI, sporting a fur-trimmed hat, waves to pilgrims upon his arrival in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican for his weekly public audience, on Dec. 21, 2005. The red hat with white fur trimming, known in Italian as the "camauro," was popular among pontiffs in the 17th century. During his papacy Benedict sought to restore traditions largely abandoned in modern times, including donning pontifical hats and other clothing that hadn't been worn in decades.
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  • Pope Benedict XVI walks through the gate of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, to pay his respects to the victims of the Holocaust, May 28, 2006. Speaking in front of Holocaust victims and describing himself as a 'son of the German people,' he said, "In such a place, no words are possible, just stupefied silence which makes one ask God: why? Why did You not say anything? How was He able to tolerate such destruction? I pray to God not to allow a similar thing to ever happen again."
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  • Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges applause from the United Nations General Assembly, April 18, 2008, at UN headquarters in New York City. Pope Benedict XVI focused his speech on human rights, responsibilities and dignity saying, "The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security." He was the third pope to speak at the UN General Assembly - Pope Paul VI spoke in 1965 and Pope John Paul II in 1979 and 1995.
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  • Pope Benedict XVI walks the edge of the stage after conducting his final Mass in the U.S. before tens of thousands at Yankee Stadium, April 20, 2008, in New York City.
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  • Pope Benedict XVI places a note with a prayer in the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 12, 2009. In his prayer he called Jerusalem the 'city of peace' and the 'spiritual home to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike,' calling on God to, "Send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family." The Pope also visited the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine, located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
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  • Pope Benedict XVI welcoming the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama, July 10, 2009, in Vatican City.
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  • Workers unfurl a giant reproduction of the 2005 front page of the German tabloid Bild Zeitung, which had been printed after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's election to the papacy, on the facade of the Axel Springer Verlag headquarters, Sept. 20, 2011, ahead of his papal visit to Berlin on Sept. 22, 2011.
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  • Pope Benedict XVI holds Mass in Plaza de la Revolucion "Jose Marti," on March 28, 2012, in Havana, Cuba. Fourteen years after Pope John Paul II visited the communist country Pope Benedict XVI made his first visit, conducting Mass in the city of Santiago de Cuba and in Havana. Benedict pushed for reform in the country, saying, "Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity."
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  • Pope Benedict XVI meets with former Cuban President Fidel Castro at the Vatican embassy, on March 29, 2012, in Havana. After the pontiff celebrated mass, he met with Fidel Castro for a half-hour before departing for Rome. During the meeting which the Vatican spokesman described as 'very cordial,' the two octogenarians reportedly joked about their age, discussed Church liturgy and the state of the world. Fidel Castro also asked the Pope, what does a pope do?
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  • A demonstration by the victims of violence by pedophile priests takes place near the Vatican, Oct. 29, 2011, in Rome. While still a cardinal and head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, his office was placed in charge of investigating all claims of clerical sexual abuse from 2001. The sexual abuse by clergy crisis reached its peak during Pope Benedict's papacy and victims of clerical sexual abuse rights groups accused him of covering-up and doing too little too late.
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  • Pope Benedict XVI releases a dove as a sign of peace from the window of his study at the end of his Sunday Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square, Jan. 29, 2012, in Vatican City. The pontiff, flanked by a young member of the Catholic Action movement, released two doves as a sign of peace for the City of Rome and for the whole world. The doves once released, flew back inside the room prompting the pope to say, "They want to stay in the Pope’s house!"
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  • Lightning strikes the Basilica of St. Peter's Dome on the same day Pope Benedict XVI made his surprise announcement of his resignation at a meeting of cardinals in Latin, Feb 11, 2013, in Vatican City. The 85-year-old pontiff said his strength was no longer adequate to continue in office due to his advanced age. He also said, "I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," and that he was making the decision in 'full freedom' but was "fully aware of the gravity of this gesture."
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  • Thousands gathered in St. Peter's square as Pope Benedict XVI held his last weekly public audience on Feb 27, 2013 in Vatican City before stepping down. Pope Benedict XVI had led the church as leader of the Catholic Church for nearly eight years and was the first pope to retire since 1415. He cited ailing health as his reason for retirement and said he would no longer have a public role. After retiring he kept the name of Benedict XVI but the Vatican announced he would be called 'Pope Emeritus' from then on.
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  • Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, flanked by Prefect of the Pontifical House and his former personal secretary Georg Ganswein arrives at the Canonization Mass in which John Paul II and John XXIII were to be declared saints, on April 27, 2014, in Vatican City.
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  • At the end of the consistory ceremony Pope Francis meets with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his chapel in the Vatican, Nov. 19, 2016. After the basilica ceremony, the new cardinals and Pope Francis took two mini-buses to the monastery on Vatican grounds where Benedict lives to greet the emeritus pontiff.
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  • From left, Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his brother Georg drink beer to celebrate Benedict's 90th birthday, April 17, 2017.
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  • Former Pope Benedict as he receives the winners of the "Premio Ratzinger" at the Vatican, Dec. 1, 2022.
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