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Pope thanks Cardinal Ratzinger for 50 years of priesthood

John Paul II sent a congratulatory letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

The German cardinal was ordained on 29 June 1951, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. A year later he began his career as a theology professor, in Freising. An expert at the Second Vatican Council, in time he became one of the top Catholic theologians of the late 20th century.

Joseph Ratzinger was named archbishop of Munich and Freising by Paul VI on March 24, 1977. In 1981, John Paul II appointed him prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Pope says in his letter, published today by the Vatican, that the cardinal's brilliant theological career and his witness in Munich were the reasons he was chosen for the post.

He said: "Since then you have not ceased to dedicate your intellectual and moral energy to promote and safeguard the doctrine of the faith and customs throughout the Catholic world, at the same time fostering studies geared to increasing the intelligence of the faith, and to giving an adequate answer, in light of the Word of God, to the problems arising from the progress of science and civilisation."