Book Excerpt: 'My Brother, The Pope'

PHOTO: Book cover for ?My Brother, The Pope,? the memoirs of Monsignor Georg Ratzinger.Courtesy Ignatius Press
Book cover for ?My Brother, The Pope,? the memoirs of Monsignor Georg Ratzinger.

The following is an excerpt from the book, "My Brother, the Pope," the memoirs of Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Pope Benedict XVI, as written by historian Michael Hesemann.

From Chapter IX – Pope (pp. 236-240)

When my brother came to Altötting, naturally I traveled there from Regensburg. I stayed overnight with the Capuchins and ate with them. Before the papal Mass, I met Professor Franz Mussner (b.1916), who taught New Testament exegesis in Regensburg and today lives in Passau, his native city, as a cathedral canon.

Pope Benedict XVI, left, with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, standing at the baptismal font where the Pope was baptised as a child in Germany. Credit: Courtesy Ignatius Press

At that time, he had just celebrated his ninetieth birthday, and when he saw me, he said we two were the only ones who had permission to carry a cane; all the other attendees were forbidden to have one for security reasons.A very festive, beautiful liturgy followed, which visibly moved people. Then during the meal afterward, crispy roast pork and dumplings, I finally sat at a table again with my brother. Instead of taking a siesta afterward, we took a little walk through the convent garden and "chatted". My brother was so happy he could finally be in his homeland again. ...

Next on the itinerary after Altötting was Marktl, where we visited Saint Oswald's, the church where he was baptized. In quiet prayer, we lingered there in front of the baptismal font over which he had been accepted into the communion of Holy Mother Church seventy-nine years before. After that, he took me with him in the helicopter to Regensburg; I sat opposite him, face-to-face, the whole time.

The welcome in Regensburg was overwhelming. I spent the night in the major seminary beside my brother's apartment, for the next morning we wanted to celebrate early Mass together. From there we set out for the great papal Mass on Islinger Feld. On the program that afternoon were his address in the aula magna of the university and an ecumenical evening prayer service. And then finally came September 13, to which we had looked forward for so long. Already when the program for his trip to Germany was being planned, my brother asked for a day he could use for private meetings. On that day, he was with me practically the whole time. There was only one official item on the program at 11:00 in the morning: the consecration of the new organ in the "Old Chapel", of which I had grown so fond that this, too, was actually a private event. Originally he was supposed to travel directly from the major seminary, where he was staying overnight, to the "Old Chapel" on Schwarze-Bären-Straße, but he wanted to drop off something at my house first. So we went there via Luzengasse, which runs by my house. At the time, we thought we would use the nearest entrance to the church, but the chapter of the "Old Chapel" was waiting for us on the north side, and so we entered by the north side, were solemnly greeted there, and arrived punctually for the great consecration of the organ. After that, we returned to my house. Along the way, we met the leader of the Jewish community, Herr Hans Rosengold (who has unfortunately died since), whom my brother thanked for his hospitality -- he had invited the whole papal entourage to dinner.

Upstairs on the terrace of my house, we drank an aperitif and then ate our midday meal on the ground floor. The Bishop was there and also a small group including his secretary, Monsignor Gänswein. Frau Heindl, my housekeeper, had prepared a delicious meal for us, which in fact almost did not arrive at our table. You see, she lives right across the street on Königsstraße and had cooked there for us in advance because she thought that that was the simplest solution: then she would just have to bring the food over quickly, as she often did. But on that day, our street was blocked off, and the police did not want to let her through. Then dear Frau Heindl became rather indignant: "There's no bomb in the pot, but soup for the Holy Father! And if you don't let me through, then he gets nothing to eat!" she said very energetically. Then the policemen themselves were disconcerted and did not know at first whether they should believe her. So they did not leave her side but came into the house with her as far as the kitchen, where they then saw that what she said was true, that she was practically at home here and was supposed to prepare the midday meal. Eventually there was breznsuppe (pretzel soup), roast beef smothered in onions, spätzle, and finally a pineapple custard; everything tasted wonderful.

After a little siesta, a midday nap, we drove up to Pentling to visit first of all the grave of our parents at the cemetery in Ziegetsdorf. The Bishop and his secretary came along, too. In Pentling, a whole crowd of people had gathered, among them Herr and Frau Hofbauer, who take perfect care of our house there -- they are very fine people. Finally, in our house we ate supper. My brother also lay down for a short time before we drove back to the major seminary, because he was really very tired and had a headache. He enjoyed that day very much, and it was almost like it always was. He loves the little house in Pentling very much; he really feels at home there, for even the most beautiful palace does not have what a one-family house like that has. Of course this visit to his homeland was primarily a pastoral journey, but for him it was also a farewell to his old life.