Son of a police officer from Lower Bavaria.
In 1929 his family moved to Tittmoning, but after his anti-Nazi father get into trouble with locals, they moved to Traunstein in 1932.
In 1941 at age 14 he was required to join the Hitler Youth, but never attended any meetings.
In 1943 at age 16 he was drafted into the auxiliary anti-aircraft service; apparently never fired a shot.
In 1944 he was released from the unit, but immediately drafted into a forced labor gang, forced to dig anti-tank trenches.
After a few months he was released, but almost immediately drafted into the regular army.
Joseph completed basic training, but in 1945 he deserted rather than kill anyone; apparently never fired a shot.
Captured by Americans, he spent time in an Allied prisoner of war camp.
Studiedphilosophy and theology at the University of Munich and at Freising from 1946 to 1951.
Ordained, along with his brother Georg, on 29 June1951.
Dear brothers and sisters, after the Great PopeJohn Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard.
I am comforted by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and act even with insufficient instruments.
And above all, I entrust myself to your prayers.
With the joy of the risen Lord and confidence in His constant help, we will go forward.
The Lord will help us and Mary, His most holy mother, will be alongside us.