Pope gives rare glimpse into youth, vocation in Nazi Germany

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Pope Benedict XVI offered a rare glimpse into his youth, recalling the ambitions of his generation in Nazi Germany and his vocation in a message ahead of the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid.

"During the Nazi dictatorship and the war, we were, so to speak, 'hemmed in' by the dominant power structure. So we wanted to break out into the open, to experience the whole range of human possibilities," the pope said.

Born in 1927 in the German region of Bavaria, Joseph Ratzinger was conscripted into Adolf Hitler's army in the last few months of World War II.

"We were not willing to settle for a conventional middle-class life," Pope Benedict said, comparing his own generation's ambitions with those of today's youth.

"Naturally, part of that was due to the times we lived in," he added.

The pope also discussed his vocation as a priest and his doubts about it after the war.

"I was somehow aware quite early on that the Lord wanted me to be a priest," the pope said.

"Then later, after the war, when I was in the seminary and at university on the way towards that goal, I had to recapture that certainty. I had to ask myself: is this really the path I was meant to take?" the pope said.

Pope Benedict said he then found certainty that priesthood was the right path for him.

World Youth Day, launched by Benedict XVI's predecessor John Paul II, is held in a different city every two or three years.

The last occasion was in 2008 in Sydney, Australia.

© 2010 AFP

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