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Pope Benedict XVI is ‘very sick,’ according to the Vatican. Here’s a look back at his life

On Wednesday, the Vatican confirmed that he was ‘very sick’ and asked for prayers for him

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Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Freising, Germany.

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Freising, Germany.

Sven Hoppe, dpa via Associated Press

Born as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI has a prominent legacy within Catholicism. On Wednesday, the Vatican confirmed that he was “very sick” and asked for prayers for him.

The pope emeritus served from April 19, 2005, to Feb. 28, 2013, when he resigned. According to Reuters, he said that he resigned due to health reasons.

Who is Pope Benedict XVI?

Ratzinger was born in Germany in 1927, according to Britannica. A few years later, the Nazi party took control of the state and his parents were opposed to the regime. After entering seminary, Britannica said, “In 1941 he was compelled to join the Hitler Youth, and in 1943 he was drafted into the German military, serving in an antiaircraft unit in Bavaria before being sent to Hungary to set tank traps in 1945. He deserted in April of that year and was captured by American forces and held prisoner for a brief period.”

After World War II ended, he became a professor and started teaching theology at different universities while also writing theological works that caught the attention of Catholic bishops, per Britannica. Originally more progressive theologically, Ratzinger adopted more conservative stances the more he continued to write about theology. He became a critic of liberation theology and expanded use of the Traditional Latin Mass.

According to the Vatican’s biography of him, he saw his vocation as a theological one. He was involved in the Second Vatican Council as well as being the President for the Commission for Drafting the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He was also the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Vatican’s biography indicated that his theological writings are still considered important today and they had a strong impact on the theological development of Catholicism. “The rapid succession of his numerous, detailed publications has also continued as the years have passed, serving as a reference point for Catholics and especially for those involved in advanced theological studies,” according to the Vatican.

Following the death of Pope John Paul II, then-Cardinal Ratzinger became the pope. He chose the name “Benedict,” which means blessed. Praised for his theological contributions, he also faced criticism during his papacy, according to Reuters. He faced criticism for comments about Islam and later took a trip that was described as “a fence-mending visit including prayers with Istanbul’s grand mufti facing Mecca at the city’s Blue Mosque.”

Benedict is currently 95 years old and resides in the Vatican.