The newly-elected head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict the 16th, was a close confidant of the late John Paul the Second and is known as a strict defender of Catholic doctrine.
He was born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in April 1927. In his autobiography, he described his family as strongly anti-Nazi. Pope Benedict joined the Hitler Youth when it was compulsory and soon began studying for the priesthood.
He was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit, but deserted the German army and was sent to a U.S prisoner of war camp at the end of World War Two. He resumed his religious studies after he was freed and was ordained a priest in June 1951.
Benedict was named archbishop of Munich and a cardinal in 1977. Pope John Paul chose him to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981, and he became Dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002.
The new pope was a major supporter of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, but he remained a strict guardian of Roman Catholic dogma. He has spoken out against the ordination of women and marriage for priests.
He also has denounced homosexuality and gay marriage, and in 2004 wrote a letter to U.S. bishops criticizing politicians who support abortion rights and euthanasia. He is the first German pope in nearly one thousand years.
Information for this report is provided by Reuters and AP.