Slideshow: The life of Pope Benedict XVI
Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Look back at his life from childhood through his papacy.
The life of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI
Updated at 8:01 a.m. ET:
The pope announces he will step down on February 28 because of his failing health. TODAY's Matt Lauer speaks with NBC's Claudio Lavanga in Rome, who says the resignation "came as a shock," and George Weigel, NBC New Vatican consultant.
April 16, 1927: Joseph Ratzinger born in Marktl Inn, Bavaria.
1939: Enters the minor seminary in Traunstein, Germany.
1943: At the age of 16, he and members of his seminary class are drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps.
1945: Deserts the army and returns to Traunstein. He is briefly held by American forces in a prisoner of war camp. After his release, he re-enters the seminary.
1951: Ordained into the priesthood by Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich.
1953: Receives his doctorate in theology from the University of Munich with a thesis entitled "The People and House of God in St. Augistine's Doctrine of the Church."
1959: Begins lecturing as a professor of fundamental theology at the University of Bonn.
1962-1965: Participates in all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council as theological adviser to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne, Germany.
1972: Becomes one of the co-founders of Catholic theology journal Communio.
1977: Named Archbishop of Munich and Freising in March and elevated to Cardinal of Munich in June by Pope Paul VI.
1981: Named Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II.
1998: Named Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals.
2002: Elected Dean of the College of Cardinals.
April 19, 2005: Cardinal Ratzinger elected as the 265th pope and chooses the name Pope Benedict XVI.
Feb. 11, 2012: Pope Benedict XVI announces he will step down on Feb. 28.