Mgr Georg Ratzinger, a musician and retired Pope Benedict XVI’s elder brother, died on 1st July at the age of 96.
According to Vatican News, Mgr Ratzinger died in Regensburg, Germany, where he had been hospitalised. Pope Benedict, 93, flew to Regensburg on 18th June to be with his ailing brother.
When the retired pope arrived in Germany, the Diocese of Regensburg issued a statement asking the public to respect his privacy and that of his brother.
“It may be the last time that the two brothers, Georg and Joseph Ratzinger, see each other in this world,” the diocesan statement said.
The two brothers attended the seminary together after World War II and were ordained to the priesthood together in 1951. Although priestly ministry took them in different directions, they continued to be close and to spend holidays and vacations together, including at the Vatican and the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Their sister, Maria, died in 1991.
Born at Pleiskirchen, Germany, in 1924, Mgr Ratzinger already was a proficient organist and pianist by the time he entered the minor seminary in Traunstein in 1935. Forced to leave the seminary when war broke out, he was wounded while serving in Italy with Germany’s armed forces in 1944 and later was held as a prisoner of war by US forces.
When the war ended, he and his brother enrolled in 1946 in the seminary of the Munich and Freising Archdiocese and were ordained priests five years later. He directed the Regensburg boys’ choir from 1964 to 1994, when he retired.
When Mgr Ratzinger was named an honorary citizen of Castel Gandolfo in 2008, his younger brother, Pope Benedict, told the crowd, “From the beginning of my life, my brother was always not just a companion, but also a trustworthy guide.”
“The days left to live progressively decrease, but in this stage as well, my brother helps me to accept with serenity, humility and courage the weight of each day. I thank him,” Pope Benedict said.
“For me, he has been a point of orientation and of reference with the clarity and determination of his decisions,” the now-retired pope said. “He always has shown me the path to take, including in difficult situations.”