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  1. ITV Report

Pope Benedict XVI: Conservative and controversial

Joseph Ratzinger was born in Bavaria in Germany, on April 16, 1927. He is the son of a police chief and was briefly a member of the Hitler Youth. At the end of World War Two, he was an American prisoner of war. He was elected to the papacy in 2005, only the second non-Italian Pope since 1522 and the oldest on election since the 18th century.

Pope Benedict XVI Credit: Reuters
  • THE LEGACY OF POPE BENEDICT XVI

Pope Benedict XVI will leave a legacy of being deeply conservative, not afraid to crack down on liberals and dissidents within the church.

He was even given the nickname of "God's Rottweiler" while Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by pursuing Catholic theologians and clergy seen to stray from orthodox teaching.

Before becoming Pope he included labelling homosexuality a "more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil". He also said rock music could be a "vehicle of anti-religion".

Pope Benedict waves from a balcony of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican in 2005 after being elected by the conclave of cardinals Credit: Reuters

His pronouncements before becoming Pope included labelling homosexuality a "more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil". He also said rock music could be a "vehicle of anti-religion".

He was strongly against the ordination of women as priests, euthanasia, abortion and the use of artificial birth control.

  • POPE BENEDICT XVI's CONTROVERSIAL MOMENTS

Since his election Pope Benedict XVI has also attracted considerable controversy. The Pope's visit to Africa in 2009 was overshadowed by a row sparked by comments he made while flying to the continent in which he rejected condoms in the fight against Aids.

His decision in 2009 to lift the ex-communication on English cleric Richard Williamson, who made comments suggesting only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews died in the Holocaust and none perished in gas chambers, also caused uproar.

The Pope later issued a letter expressing his regret about the damage the affair caused to relations with the Jewish community.

Open-air mass on the Islinger field near Regensburg in September 2006 Credit: Reuters

In 2006, during a visit to Germany he was caught in a firestorm of criticism from the Islamic world after giving a lecture at his old university of Regensburg. Quoting from an obscure Medieval text, he cited the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterised some of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, Islam's founder, as "evil and inhuman" - remarks that touched off widespread anger across the Muslim world.

He later apologised, saying he was "deeply sorry" about the angry reaction to his remarks about Islam and holy war, saying the text he quoted did not reflect his personal opinion.

Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican in April 2010 Credit: Reuters

In private, the Pope is known to be an accomplished pianist and a lover of Mozart. He is also a cat lover and, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was known to have looked after stray cats in Rome.

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