VATICAN CITY – GENERAL INFO
— Joseph Ratzinger was born April 16, 1927.
— He is 78 years old and the oldest of the major contenders to be pope.
— Ratzinger is German. He speaks heavily accented Italian.
— He's spent more than 24 years as a theologian at the Vatican.
— He was most often mentioned as a "transitional" pope who could have a short reign.
— He became a cardinal in 1977 by Paul VI.
— Ratzinger was one of just three voting cardinals who wasn't made a cardinal by John Paul II.
— He served as the dean of the College of Cardinals (search).
— Among his duties was announcing the death of John Paul II.
— In 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed him guardian of the church's doctrine. His title was "prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (search)".
— As John Paul II became more ill, Ratzinger sometimes helped him lead ceremonies.
— Ratzinger is seen as a religious conservative, in line with John Paul II's policies.
— He is known for cracking down on dissent in the church.
— He's also known as a reassuring figure.
— On Monday, April 18, gave the homily at the Mass before the College of Cardinals met.
— On Monday, Ratzinger particularly singled out relativism as a threat to the church.
— He said "having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards."
— Ratzinger warned, "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism."
— In that homily, he listed other threats to the church: ideologies such as Marxism, liberalism, atheism and agnosticism, collectivism, and what he called "radical individualism" and "vague religious mysticism."
— On April 8 (Good Friday), Ratzinger wrote a series of reflections at John Paul II's request. He denounced what he called "filth" in the Church, including in the priesthood.
— Ban on women priests: In 2003, he called it "necessary in order to protect true doctrine, to safeguard the communion and unity of the church and to guide consciences of the faithful."
— Secularism: In 2004 he said, "We are in a very grave moment; radical secularism may destroy humanism."
— Cloning: In 2004 he called it, "more dangerous threat than weapons of mass destruction".