The newly elected Pope, Joseph Ratzinger
The newly elected head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict the 16th, was a close confidant of the late John Paul II and is known as a strict defender of Catholic doctrine.

A formidable figure in the Church, the cardinal formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger was considered a front-runner going into the conclave.

Born in Germany in April 1927, he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Munich before being ordained a priest in June 1951.

He was the archbishop of Munich from 1977 until Pope John Paul chose him to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981. He was named 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 1960's, 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 1,000 years.