October 25, 2004: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's most recent book, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, is now available. More information, including excerpts, can be found here.

As Pope John Paul II's chief doctrinal officer and key advisor, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has been Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981. He is the most revered prelate, scholar, theologian, teacher and Catholic author of our time, under Pope John Paul II - having spoken on everything from sexual consumerism, private revelation and the "crisis of faith," to human rights, roles of men and women today, marriage, the priesthood, and the future of the world.

Yet, the depth, candor and humble servitude of this highest-ranking Cardinal will likely be his lasting hallmark, as he is most engaging in God and the World (Ignatius, 2002), perhaps even more than in previous writings.

Ratzinger was born in Germany (Bavaria) on Holy Saturday, April 16, 1927, and baptized that same day. He has said of his early baptism, "To be the first person baptized with the new water was seen as a significant act of Providence. I have always been filled with thanksgiving for having had my life immersed in this way in the Easter Mystery…".

His father worked as a rural policeman, which kept his family continually moving from town to town. In his memoirs about his early life (prior to his appointment as Archbishop of Munich), Milestones: Memoirs 1927 - 1977 (Ignatius, 1999), Ratzinger depicts his family life as quite happy. Family and Church were, for him, inseparable - and he clearly saw Hitler and the Third Reich as the enemy to both. He has said of his father, "…He saw that a victory of Hitler would not be a victory for Germany but a victory of the Antichrist…".

Following his father's retirement while Joseph Ratzinger was a teenager, the younger Ratzinger initiated study of classical languages, and in 1939, entered the minor seminary in Traunstein. In 1943 while still in seminary, he was drafted at age 16 into the German anti-aircraft corps. (Though he was opposed to the Nazis, he was forced to join at a young age.) Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry, but a subsequent illness precluded him from the usual rigors of military duty. As the Allied front drew closer to his post in 1945, he escaped from the Nazis and returned to his family's home in Traunstein, 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 re-entered the seminary, along with his brother Georg, in November of that year.

Ratzinger and his brother Georg were ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1951, in the Cathedral of Freising on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
He received his doctorate in theology in 1953 from the University of Munich. Beginning in 1959, he taught theology at the University of Bonn.

Ratzinger became more widely known when, during the Second Vatican Council and at the age of 35, he was appointed chief theological advisor for the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings, for the four-year duration of the Council. After continuing his teaching at several German universities, Ratzinger was appointed by Pope Paul VI in March 1977 as Archbishop of Munich and Freising. In June 1977, he was elevated to Cardinal.

Pope John Paul II summoned Cardinal Ratzinger to Rome in November 1981, and named him Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and President of the International Theological Commission. He has published several best-selling books which clarify faith practice and Catholic doctrine for today's Catholic and Christian: The Ratzinger Report (1985); Salt of the Earth (1996); The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000); God and the World (2002), and the recently published God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life (2003).

Additionally, he worked with some 40 collaborators and over a thousand bishops to produce the 900+ page Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Ratzinger works more closely with Pope John Paul II than perhaps anyone else. On Tuesdays, Ratzinger and members of the Congregation meet with the Pope for an hour-and-a-half lunch meeting. Then Ratzinger meets alone with the Pope every Friday evening to discuss critical problems facing the Church and the deliberations of the Congregation. "Then the Pope decides," says Ratzinger.

Ratzinger has wielded spiritual influence and worldwide respect even from those who don't hold to the Catholic faith. As papal biographer for John Paul II, George Weigel, has said, "…not even his [Ratzinger's] implacable enemies ever questioned Joseph Ratzinger's erudition: his encyclopedic knowledge of theology; his command of biblical, patristic, scholastic, and contemporary sources; his elegance as a thinker and writer."

Books by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger published by Ignatius Press:

- Behold the Pierced One
- Called to Communion
- Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year
- The Feast of Faith
- God and the World
- God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life
- Gospel, Catechism and Catechesis
- Introduction to Christianity
- Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
- Many Religions, One Covenant
- Meaning of Christian Brotherhood
- Milestones: 1927-1977
- Nature and Mission of Theology
- Principles of Christian Morality (co-author)
- Principles of Catholic Theology
- The Ratzinger Report
- Salt of the Earth
- The Spirit of the Liturgy
- Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions