Did you know Josef Ratzinger was once a prisoner of war?

Here are some interesting facts about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI


After his birth on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, in southeastern Germany near the Austrian border, Ratzinger’s early years were defined by his country and the turbulent times, as well as his faith.

Adolf Hitler rose to power during Ratzinger’s adolescent years in Traunstein, in the heavily Catholic region of Bavaria. When he was 14, school officials followed Nazi officials’ orders and enrolled him and the rest of his class in the Hitler Youth movement – against his will, Ratzinger wrote in his memoir.

He left the organization shortly thereafter, because he was studying for the priesthood. But in 1943, Ratzinger was brought back into the Nazi fold upon being drafted into the German army.

For the next two years, Ratzinger served his country as part of an anti-aircraft unit. But in the waning days of World War II, he deserted – and was taken prisoner by the U.S. Army.

According to CNN Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen, Ratzinger’s family was strongly, if quietly, anti-Nazi and his father took a series of less significant jobs to steer clear from what was happening under Hitler.

In June 1945, Ratzinger was released from a POW camp. Hitching a ride on a milk truck, he headed home.

Here are some other facts about him:

• On April 16, 2008, Benedict XVI celebrated his 81st birthday, and on that day he was at the White House, after which he attended a prayer service with bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D. C.

• Two students from the Catholic University of America designed the altar upon which the Holy Father celebrated Mass at Nationals’ Park

• Kelly Clarkson, the first season’s winner of the television talent show American Idol, sang for Benedict XVI at Saint Joseph Seminary. One of the hymns she will sang was Ave Maria.

• On April 20, 2008 the Benedict XVI visited Ground Zero and celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium. Harry Connick, Jr., Jose Feliciano, and Dana performed for the Holy Father at Yankee Stadium before the Mass.

• Benedict XVI has a pilot’s license, and liked to fly from the Vatican to the papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, but he does not have a driver’s license as he never learned to drive a car.

• Weideneder Brau Vertriebs GmbH, a family-owned brewery in nearby Tann, Germany, created a special brew called Pabstbier/Pope Beer. The label reads, “Dedicated to the Great Son of our Homeland, Pope Benedict XVI.”

• Benedict XVI was the youngest of three children whose father, Joseph Sr., was a police officer. His brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, is a retired priest.

• Benedict XVI’s sister Maria was his housekeeper until she died at the age of 69.

• At the age of 16, Josef Ratzinger was drafted into the German army.

• Benedict XVI is fluent in German, English, Italian, French, and Spanish and has knowledge of Portuguese. Naturally, he can also speak classical Latin.

• Benedict enjoys playing the piano and listening to the music of Mozart and Bach daily.

• Benedict XVI loves cats, and had two of his own. One was a stray which he found in Rome.

• Benedict still has the stuffed animals his mother made for him when he was a child.

• Benedict XVI’s favorite meal is Bavarian potato ravioli with pancake strips.

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