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Pope’s Brother Reveals Rare Details About His Life

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer The brother of Pope Benedict XVI recently revealed several unknown facts about the childhood of Joseph Ratzinger during an interview with the Italian press. According to a report by the Catholic News Agency (CNA), Msgr. Georg Ratzinger told Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale that his brother was “a lively child, but not an earthquake. I remember him as always being joyful. From the time he was a child he showed a great sensitivity to animals, flowers and in general to all nature. Perhaps that’s why he was always given pets as Christmas gifts.  His care for nature and for living beings was characteristic of him.” Both served as altar boys, he said, and their vocations became clear early on, “first to me and then to him.” “At Tittmoning, Joseph received Confirmation from Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, the great Archbishop of Monaco,” Msgr. Ratzinger said. “He was amazed and said he would like to become a cardinal. But just a few days later, while watching a painter who was painting the walls of our house, he said he wanted to be a painter when he grew up too.” World War II was a difficult time for their family, he said. “We had a ticket to buy the monthly rations, which were simply generic items such as sugar, butter, oil and a little bit of meat.” Their father, Joseph, a policeman, considered Nazism to be “a catastrophe and not only the great enemy of the Church but also of all faiths and of human life in general.” Both Georg and his brother Joseph were forced to join the Hitler Youth because “the State ordered all school-age kids, according to their age, to be signed up for certain youth groups. When it was obligatory, we were registered as a block.  There was no freedom to choose, and not showing up would have brought very negative consequences.” He said his brother Joseph “did not attend the meetings” and that this “brought economic harm to my family because by not doing so we could not receive the discounts for school tuition.” The two were also called into military service. “My brother was called shortly after me.  We had objectives and ideals that were contrary to those of Hitler, but it was our duty as soldiers. We didn’t know when the war would end.” The Ratzinger brothers were ordained in 1951, and both have always considered the Mass to be the center of “our faith and our action, it is the personal encounter with God. This is naturally in first place. We cannot imagine a day without the Mass, without the liturgy. It would be impoverished and lacking the essential,” he said. Msgr. Ratzinger admitted that he was “disappointed” when his brother was elected Pope, because it meant “we would have to significantly reconfigure our relationship” and would not be able to see each as much anymore. “In any case, after the human decision of the cardinals, this is the will of God and we must say yes to it.” The first one to congratulate the new Pope when he called home on that fateful day was actually the housekeeper, Ms. Heindl. “At that time the bells were being rung the entire time and you couldn’t hear well,” he said, but she was able to congratulate him. He also said that several years ago, the Cardinal Ratzinger said he thought “Benedict” would be a good name for a pope. “Now he doesn’t remember having said it, but I very much do,” Msgr. Ratzinger said. He also recalled his brother’s personality. “He has never been a brash man, intentionally offending others. He always had great respect for the opinions of others. Often the media creates erroneous images of people.”   What’s it like to be the brother of the Pope? It’s a situation that “brings brings repercussions and consequences,” he said. “When I go to the city, I always encounter people who kindly greet me, especially Italian tourists. They say to me, ‘The Pope’s brother.’ I never imagined that would be me, nor did I expect it.”   © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.