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Where was Pope Benedict XVI from, what congregation did he belong to, and what was his real name?

Before he was known as Benedict, Alois Joseph Ratzinger was a Bavarian bishop who grew up in south Germany during the Second World War.

Benedict XVI pictured in 1977
KEYSTONE Pictures USA / Zuma Press / ContactoPhoto Europa Press

Born Joseph Alois Ratzinger, Benedict XVI was elected to the papacy in the 2005 papal conclave following the death of Pope John Paul II.

The former pope was born in the city of Marktl, in Bavaria, southern Germany. After being conscripted into the German airforce and army during the Second World War, Joseph established himself as a theologian and was ordained as a priest in 1951.

He was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977, which was not a usual promotion for someone with little pastoral experience. He was also Dean of the College of Cardinals from 2002 until his election as pope.

In January of 2022, an independent report in Germany alleged Benedict failed to act against four cases of sexual abuse in his archdiocese when he was Archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982. He acknowledged errors occurred and asks for forgiveness.

“In reiterating a sense of shame and remorse for the abuse of minors by clergy, the Holy See assures its closeness to all victims and confirms the path it has taken to protect the little ones and guarantee them a safe environment,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

Why did Joseph choose Benedict?

After being elected Pope, he chose the name Benedict XVI as “a link to the venerated Pontiff, Benedict XV, who guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War.”