Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Alois Ratzinger on 16 April 1927, is the 265th and reigning Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the spiritual head of the Roman Catholic Church, and as such, Sovereign of the Vatican City State.
He was elected on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005, and took possession of his cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on 7 May 2005. Pope Benedict XVI has both German and Vatican citizenship. He succeeded Pope John Paul II.
Benedict XVI is a respected Roman Catholic theologian and a prolific bestselling author, a defender of traditional Catholic doctrine and values. He served as a professor at various German universities and was a theological consultant at the Second Vatican Council before becoming Archbishop of Munich and Freising and later a Cardinal. At the time of his election as Pope, Benedict had been Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (curial heads lose their positions upon the death of a pope) and was Dean of the College of Cardinals.
He teaches the importance for the Catholic Church and for humanity of contemplating God’s sacrificial love and has reaffirmed the “importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work.”
Pope Benedict was also the founder and patron of the Ratzinger Foundation, a charitable organisation which makes money from the sale of books and essays written by the Pope, in order to fund scholarships and bursaries for students across the world.