Ordained as a priest in 1951 in his native Bavaria, Ratzinger had established himself as a highly regarded university theologian by the late 1950s and was appointed a full professor in 1958. After a long career as an academic and professor of theology at several German universities, he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and Cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977, an unusual promotion for someone with little pastoral experience. In 1981, he was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman Curia. From 2002 until his election as Pope, he was also Dean of the College of Cardinals. Prior to becoming Pope, he was "a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century"; he had an influence "second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions" as one of John Paul II's closest confidants. He has lived in Rome since 1981.
He was originally a liberal theologian, but adopted conservative views after 1968. His prolific writings defend traditional Catholic doctrine and values. During his papacy, Benedict XVI advocated a return to fundamental Christian values to counter the increased secularisation of many Western countries. He views relativism's denial of objective truth, and the denial of moral truths in particular, as the central problem of the 21st century. He taught the importance of both the Catholic Church and an understanding of God's redemptive love. Pope Benedict also revived a number of traditions, including elevating the Tridentine Mass to a more prominent position. He strengthened the relationship between the Catholic Church and art, promoted the use of Latin, and reintroduced traditional papal garments, for which reason he was called "the pope of aesthetics". He has been described as "the main intellectual force in the Church" since the mid-1980s.
On 11 February 2013, Benedict announced his resignation in a speech in Latin before the cardinals, citing a "lack of strength of mind and body" due to his advanced age. His resignation became effective on 28 February 2013. He is the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415, and the first to do so on his own initiative since Pope Celestine V in 1294. As pope emeritus, Benedict retains the style of His Holiness, and the title of Pope, and continues to dress in the papal colour of white. He was succeeded by Pope Francis on 13 March 2013, and he moved into the newly renovated monastery Mater Ecclesiae for his retirement on 2 May 2013. In his retirement, Benedict XVI has made occasional public appearances alongside Pope Francis.
Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born on 16 April, Holy Saturday, 1927, at Schulstraße 11, at 8:30 in the morning in his parents' home in Marktl, Bavaria, Germany. He was baptised the same day. He is the third and youngest child of Joseph Ratzinger, Sr., a police officer, and Maria Ratzinger (née Peintner); his grand-uncle was the German priest-politician Georg Ratzinger. His mother's family was originally from South Tyrol (now in Italy). Pope Benedict's elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, is a Catholic priest and is the former director of the Regensburger Domspatzen choir. His sister, Maria Ratzinger, who never married, managed Cardinal Ratzinger's household until her death in 1991.
At the age of five, Ratzinger was in a group of children who welcomed the visiting Cardinal Archbishop of Munich with flowers. Struck by the cardinal's distinctive garb, he announced later that day that he wanted to be a cardinal. He attended the elementary school in Aschau am Inn, which was renamed in his honour in 2009.