On April 19, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger) was elected the 265th pope of the Roman Catholic Church following the death of his predecessor John Paul II (April 2). Inaugurated on April 24, 2005, at age 78, he is the oldest pope in nearly 300 years and the first German pope in almost 500 years. He presided over the funeral of Pope John Paul II. In 2007, he published the popular Jesus of Nazareth, the first of a three-part study on the life of Jesus. Since then, he has published many other top-selling works.
One of the central themes of Pope Benedict's papacy is to improve the Catholic Church's relations with other faiths, particularly with Eastern Orthodoxy and the Muslim faith. In April 2008, Pope Benedict made his first visit to the United States, including a stop at Ground Zero, one of the sites of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In May 2009, during another much discussed trip, Pope Benedict visited the Holy Land.