Meet the Pope - from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI.
Journey around the Vatican
Joseph Alois Ratzinger was born on 16 April, Holy Saturday, 1927 at Schulstraße 11, at 8:30 am in his parents' home in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Germany. Joseph was baptised on the same day at the church of St. Oswald. He was the third and youngest child of Joseph and Maria Ratzinger (née Peintner). His mother's family was originally from South Tyrol. On the first pictures we can see family photo of the Peintner-Riegers family and Maria, who would become the future Pope's mother, is the lady seated on the right. This photo is followed by unique pictures of Joseph's papa and mama both in their early twenties. Joseph father was born in Passau in 1877 and apparently joined the local police force in Passau in 1899. Then, at the age of 25 he joined the Royal Bavarian Gendarmerie Corps, which he served for the next 35 years. During that time, he was assigned to 14 different posts, a practice followed in order to prevent the police officers from establishing relations with special interests in the places where they served. Joseph Ratzinger's file contains a letter of permission from the Gendarmerie Main Station in Altoetting dated October 29, 1920, granting Ratzinger the "authorization to marry" his fiance Maria Peintner-Rieger. They were married in Pleiskirchen on November 9, 1920. Their first child, Maria, was born in Pleiskirchen, followed soon by their second child, Georg. Georg Ratzinger, a priest and former director of the Regensburger Domspatzen choir, is still alive. His sister, Maria Ratzinger, who never married, managed Cardinal Ratzinger's household until her death in 1991. The next picture shows Ratzinger's children together, Maria, Georg and little Joseph in the middle. This picture is probably taken in town of Titmoning where the family moved in 1929 and lived until December 1932. The colour picture shows police station of Titmoning and home for Ratzinger family. Although the building looks impressive their flat was less than comfortable. In this town, little Joseph spent his nursery years documented in nursery class photo, followed by two other pictures of Joseph, 3-4 years old enlarged from family photographs. The next colour picture, show family home, 21 Main Stree in Aschau am Inn where the family moved from Titmingen and lived between 1933 and 1937: "Father decided, toward the end of 1932, to change locations once more. In Titmoning, he had simply said too much against the brownshirts...In December, shortly before Christmas, we moved into our new home in Aschau am Inn, a well-to-do agricultural village consisting of large imposing farms. Mother was pleasantly surprised by the lovely living quarters assigned to us. A farmer had built a country house that was modern by the standards of those days and rented it to the rural police. We were assigned the second floor, and there we found all the makings of a cozy home..." In Aschau, little Joseph attended school and received his first Holy Communion in the parish Church of Mary's Assumption on March 15, 1936 (he is in the first row, sixth from the left). Next picture depicts little Joseph on his way to school along Smith's Way in Aschau. He was a lovely little boy! We know from Pope's relatives that his priestly vocation was apparent from boyhood. At the age of five, Ratzinger was in a group of children who welcomed the visiting Cardinal Archbishop of Munich with flowers. Later, the very same day, the little boy announced to his parents he wanted to become a cardinal! Next, we can see several classroom pictures of Joseph in the midst of his classmates with teachers, Miss Fahmueller and Joseph Fersch in Aschau public school. We can already recognize him after characteristic haircut and smile. On the next pictures, taken around 1937, we see Joseph, and his parents family photos. In 1941, following his fourteenth birthday, Joseph was enrolled in the Hitler Youth — membership being legally required after December 1939 — but was rather unenthusiastic member who refused to attend regular meetings. We can see his picture in the uniform taken at that time, he indeed does not look very enthusiastic. His father was a bitter enemy of Nazism, who believed it contradicted the Catholic faith. In 1941, one of Ratzinger's cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, lost his life becoming one of the victims of Nazi regime during atrocities of the eugenics campaign. In 1943 while still in seminary, he was drafted at age 16 into the German anti-aircraft corps. We can see photo of Joseph, second on the left, taken during this assignment. Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry, but a subsequent illness precluded him from the usual rigours of military duty. As the Allied front drew closer to his post in 1945, he deserted back to his family's home in Traunstein after his unit had ceased to exist, just as American troops established their headquarters in the Ratzinger household. As a German soldier, he was put in a POW camp but was released a few months later at the end of the War in summer 1945. He reentered the Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein along with his brother Georg, in November of that year. On the last picture we see seminarian Joseph - first on the left - taking a walk through Traunstein with his friends. Two Ratzinger brothers, later studied at the Ducal Georgianum (Herzogliches Georgianum) of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. They were both ordained in Freising on June 29, 1951 by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber of Munich. Joseph Ratzinger's dissertation (1953) was on St. Augustine and was entitled "The People and the House of God in Augustine's Doctrine of the Church". His habilitation dissertation (which qualified him for a professorship) was on St Bonaventure. It was completed in 1957 and he became a professor of Freising College in 1958.
Bernstein and Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI - I will survive!