Benedict's papacy: A timeline

Last updated 07:11 12/02/2013

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Benedict XVI says he is stepping down at the end of the month, lacking the strength to fulfil his duties at the head of the Catholic Church.

Here are some key events in the life of a conservative pontiff who grappled with a global sex abuse scandal that exploded during his leadership:

- April 16, 1927: Born Joseph Alois Ratzinger in Marktl am Inn, Germany, youngest of three children to Joseph and Maria Ratzinger.

- 1943-1945: Assistant in Germany's anti-aircraft defence and infantry soldier; imprisoned in 1945 in American POW camp in Neu-Ulm.

- June 29, 1951: Ordained along with brother Georg Ratzinger in Freising.

- 1969-1977: Professor at University of Regensburg.

- March 25, 1977: Named archbishop of Munich and Freising.

- June 27, 1977: Made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI.

- November 25, 1981: Named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II; takes up post in March 1982.

- April 2, 2005: Pope John Paul II dies.

- April 8, 2005: As dean of the College of Cardinals, Ratzinger presides over John Paul's funeral.

- April 19, 2005: Elected 265th pope in one of the fastest conclaves in history. Choosing name Benedict XVI, he says he is merely a "simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

- April 24, 2005: Installed as pope with Mass.

- August 18-21, 2005: First foreign trip, to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany.

- September 24, 2005: Meets with dissident theologian Hans Kung at papal summer residence.

- December 25, 2005: First encyclical "God is Love" signed. Released January 25, 2006.

- May 28, 2006: During trip to Poland, visits Auschwitz concentration camp.

- September 12, 2006: During visit to Germany, delivers speech at University of Regensburg that enrages Muslims; quoting a Byzantine emperor who characterised some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

- April 16, 2007: First volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" completed on his 80th birthday. Released April 13.

- May 27, 2007: Signs letter to China's Catholics, urging them to unite under his authority. Published June 30.

- July 7, 2007: Removes restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass in major gesture to traditional Catholics.

- April 20, 2008: During visit to United States, prays for victims of Sept. 11, 2001 attacks at ground zero.

- July 19, 2008: During visit to Australia for World Youth Day, meets with victims of priestly sex abuse and during a Mass apologises for their suffering.

- January 21, 2009: Lifts excommunication of Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson and three other ultra-traditionalist bishops of Society of St. Pius X, igniting outrage. Decree released January 24.

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- March 10, 2009: Acknowledges Vatican mistakes in Williamson affair, says Vatican must make better use of internet to prevent future controversies. Letter released March 12.

- March 17, 2009: En route to Cameroon, tells reporters aboard papal plane that condoms are not the solution to AIDS and can make problem worse, prompting widespread criticism.

- May 11, 2009: During visit to the Holy Land, lays wreath at Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, says Holocaust victims "lost their lives but they will never lose their names."

- June 29, 2009: Third encyclical "Charity in Truth" signed. Released July 7, 2009.

- July 17, 2009: Breaks right wrist in late-night fall at summer vacation home.

- Oct. 20, 2009: Vatican announces pope is making it easier for Anglicans to convert en masse to Catholicism.

- March 19, 2010: Rebukes Irish bishops for "grave errors of judgment" in handling clerical sex abuse but makes no mention of Vatican responsibility in letter to Irish faithful. Released March 20.

- May 1, 2010: Orders major overhaul of Legion of Christ after Vatican investigation determines founder was a fraud.

- September 16-19, 2010: During first state visit by a pope to Britain, meets with Queen Elizabeth II, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and beatifies Anglican convert John Henry Newman.

- November 20, 2010: Revises controversial condom-AIDS comments in book and says male prostitutes who use condoms may be taking a first step toward a more responsible sexuality.

- March 2, 2011: Issues sweeping exoneration of Jews for the death of Christ in "Jesus of Nazareth-Part II." Book released March 10.

- May 1, 2011: Beatifies John Paul II before 1.5 million people.

- June 28, 2011: Tweets for the first time, announcing launch of Vatican news information portal.

-October 6, 2012 - Pope's former butler is convicted on charges he stole the pontiff's private letters and leaked them to a journalist.

- February 11, 2013: Reveals in Latin that he is stepping down Feb. 28 during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest collaborators.

- AP

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