Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has emerged from his self-imposed silence inside the Vatican walls to publish a lengthy letter to one of Italy's best-known atheists. In it, he denies having covered up for sexually abusive priests and discusses everything from evolution to the figure of Jesus Christ.
Benedict XVI was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, Germany. He was the 265th Pope, having been elected in April 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II. At 14, Ratzinger was conscripted into the Hitler Youth, a legal requirement. In 1945, he deserted the German army and was taken prisoner by the U.S. Army. Ratzinger received a doctorate in theology at the University of Munich in 1953, having been ordained as a priest two years earlier. He is a Conservative who during his papacy advocated a return to fundamental Christian values to counter the increased secularisation of many developed countries. On February 11, 2013, he became the first pontiff since the Middle Ages to resign.