Joseph Ratzinger: The Man Who Became Pope

ABC News' John Donvan profiles the newly-elected pontiff in 2005.
3:00 | 02/11/13

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Transcript for Joseph Ratzinger: The Man Who Became Pope
Silence when they finally ended the long days of secrecy today and that -- back -- a visit to. The Pope who came forward was after all no mystery and pull a surprise perhaps but not a mystery. Benedict the sixteenth Joseph Ratzinger. Has been an on the record cleric for a long long time speaking and writing in sitting for interviews after 78 years on this earth. 54 as a priest 24 as the Vatican official. Who he is where he came from. What he believes are -- well documented. In short and it was in his words yesterday as the cardinals prepare to elect a Pope. He comes from a conservative Catholic background and believes in a conservative Catholic future. How many -- of doctrine have we known in recent decades he asked. How many ways of thinking -- he endorsed having a clear faith. Based on the creed of the church even though this is often labeled today as fundamentalism. Cause I -- -- -- -- very very friendly and warm on on the human level one on one. Gracious. Kind. Extremely bright extremely intelligent. But also that an -- so shy he's not charismatic. Joseph Ratzinger was born in Bavaria in Germany the son of a policeman in a country where a few years later. A democratic election would bring to power a leader who transformed the -- of Germany into -- student. As a teenager he was compelled to join the Hitler youth but didn't show up for its activities. In World War II. He served an auxiliary anti aircraft unit as the Jerusalem Post argued this week. That doesn't make him a Nazi. His father opposed Hitler. And resting -- himself deserted the military. Although it war's end he was briefly a prisoner of war in US hands. No one was calling him a conservative in the sixties he was enthusiastic about the call for a more open church has laid out at the second Vatican council and while teaching at the university of tubing and but then came 1960. A period of student rebellion across Europe which affected him. Analysts have suggested that whatever happened in that time and that revolution. It had a profound effect upon him. Which led him toward more conservative pats in terms of theology and its own development of fashion -- -- of bishop -- -- fields of. In 1977. -- -- career accelerated he was named archbishop of Munich and pricing and then almost immediately elevated to cardinal. Then a new Pope came along who knew Ratzinger well and looked upon him through -- Ratzinger was to become a key aide to John Paul the polish Pope who grew up in the same Europe in the same war but on the other side. We know there -- discussed the war on weekends -- At least we don't know yet Helen Alvarez an associate professor at Catholic university. Like others believes the bond between boxing here -- John Paul was based on a deep agreement about the church's role in the world. Stands -- centralization. -- he has a representative of a very conservative -- -- -- to change. John Paul -- Ratzinger head of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith once known as the inquisition. For whose excesses John Paul apologized. -- -- is an -- -- opposed to women priests or married priests and homosexuality. Which he calls a moral evil. He also enforced those views removing priests from teaching positions when they crossed the Vatican's lines Charles current. Who's teaching at Catholic university in Washington. When he got the word. The one time. I said to him that is a good German theologian. You know there are many German theologians who hold the same positions I hold. And therefore it's unfair to point to me. And and I kept emphasizing that he said well if you want to report them to -- we will investigate them. If -- fingers certainty to some borders on arrogance. Today his first words as Pope -- these dear Brothers and sisters he said the cardinals have elected -- a simple. And humble -- in the vineyard of the -- Sullivan and have -- yet -- seniority. Is not inconsistent for rats thing to think -- that he is a servant of truth. And must pursue. -- the truth of the church's teaching doggedly. And at the same time to be a man who sees himself as a humble servant. To know something for sure -- not to be a bad or boastful person. Indeed his supporters -- there's a huge heart under the often stern exterior. Admirers also stated Mike. -- call this -- He's open to dialogue with. -- -- And can -- these arguments. He is one who is like the church has been open to the science there can be. Types of national. No but what then are we to make of that homily he offered yesterday whereas elsewhere he made clear his belief system Catholic Church cannot spend even in the slightest way on its convictions -- even if that means losing some of its member of seamless Joseph Grafton group. Pope Benedict the sixteenth. Not a mystery but certainly. Open to interpretation. And John Donvan for Nightline in Washington.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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