Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus PP. XVI, Italian: Benedetto XVI; born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger on 16 April 1927) is Pope emeritus of the Catholic Church. He served as Pope from 2005 to 2013. In that role, he was both the leader of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of the Vatican City State. Benedict was elected on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005, and took possession of his cathedral, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, on 7 May 2005.
Ordained as a priest in 1951 in his native Bavaria, Ratzinger established himself as a highly regarded university theologian by the late 1950s and was appointed a full professor in 1958. After a long career as an academic, serving as a professor of theology at several German universities—the last being the University of Regensburg, where he served as Vice President of the university in 1976 and 1977—he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977, an unusual promotion for someone with little pastoral experience. In 1981, he settled in Rome when he became Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman Curia. From 2002 until his election as pope, he was also Dean of the College of Cardinals, and as such, the primus inter pares among the cardinals. Prior to becoming pope, he was "a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century" as "one of the most respected, influential and controversial members of the College of Cardinals"; he had an influence "second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions" as one of Pope John Paul II's closest confidants.
The Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes, Italian: Santa Sede) is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome. The primacy of Rome makes its bishop, commonly known as the Pope, the worldwide leader of the church. Since Rome is the preeminent episcopal see of the Church, it contains the central government of the church, including various agencies essential to administration. Diplomatically, the Holy See acts and speaks for the whole Roman Catholic Church. It is also recognized by other subjects of international law as a sovereign entity, headed by the Pope, with which diplomatic relations can be maintained."
Often incorrectly referred to as "the Vatican", the Holy See is not the same entity as the Vatican City State, which came into existence only in 1929; the Holy See, the episcopal see of Rome, dates back to early Christian times. Ambassadors are officially accredited not to the Vatican City State but to "the Holy See", and papal representatives to states and international organizations are recognized as representing the Holy See, not the Vatican City State.