The Early Years ...

Pope Benedict XVI: 1927 - 1953

Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney - July 2008

Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney - July 2008

Pope Benedict XVI was born Joseph Alois Ratzinger in Marktl am Inn, Diocese of Passau in Germany on 16 April 1927 (Holy Saturday) and was baptised the same day.

His father, a policeman, came from a family of farmers from Lower Bavaria. His mother, Maria, was the daughter of artisans from Rimsting on the shore of Lake Chiem, and before marrying she worked as a cook in a number of hotels.

He spent his childhood in Traunstein, a small village near the Austrian border, thirty kilometres from Salzburg. In this environment, which he himself has defined as "Mozartian", he received his Christian, cultural and human formation.

His early years were not easy. His faith and the education received at home prepared him for the harsh experience of those years during which the Nazi regime was hostile towards the Catholic Church - the young Joseph saw how some Nazis beat the Parish Priest before the celebration of Mass.

It was during this difficult and complex situation that he discovered the beauty and truth of faith in Christ.

His family, who always gave a clear witness of goodness and hope rooted in a faithful attachment to the Church, were fundamental in his faith journey.

During the last months of the war he was enrolled in an auxiliary anti-aircraft corps.

From 1946 to 1951 he studied philosophy and theology in the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and at the University of Munich.

He received his priestly ordination on 29 June 1951.

A year later he began teaching at the Higher School of Freising.

In 1953 he obtained his doctorate in theology with a thesis entitled "People and House of God in St Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church".

Part two: University Lecturer.

Related Link

Encyclicals

Pope Benedict has written three Encyclical Letters in his pontificate. Deus Caritas Est, Spe Salvi and Caritas in Veritate. Click to visit