By Vatican News
The funeral of Father Georg Ratzinger, the brother of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, was held on Wednesday at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Regensburg, Germany.
Fr. Georg Ratzinger died at the age of 96 on 1 July after being hospitalized in Regensburg, the city where he lived the greater part of his life. His death came just over a week after the Pope emeritus made a visit in mid-June to Regensburg to be with his ailing brother.
Following his brother's death, Pope Francis sent a personal note of condolences to his predecessor, assuring the Pope emeritus of his prayers both for his brother and for Benedict himself.
During the funeral celebrated by Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, Archbishop Georg Gänswein read an emotional letter written by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI for the occasion.
“At this hour when you offer my brother the final brotherly service and guide him on his final earthly path, I am with you,” the Pope emeritus assured in his letter.
Pope emeritus Benedict also said that people “from many countries, social and professional backgrounds” had written to him in a way that touched his heart.
Lamenting his inability to reply to each one of them personally, he nonetheless thanked them for accompanying him at this time. He also thanked all those who have been with his late brother “visibly and invisibly” during these past weeks.
“The echo of his life and work, which I have received in these days in the form of letters, telegrams and emails, goes far beyond what I could have imagined,” he wrote, adding that Cardinal Newman’s quip “cor ad cor loquitur” has become true for him, as hearts speak to each other beyond words on paper.
Priest and musician
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI said three characteristics came up in his recollections about his brother.
The first – wrote the Pope emeritus – is that his brother “received and understood his vocation to the priesthood as a musical vocation at the same time.”
He recalled that already in the early years of his elder brother’s life at Tittmoning, Georg took the personal initiative to train himself thoroughly in music. These studies led him to become the Kapellmeister of Regensburg Cathedral and guide of the Regensburger Domspatzen (The Regensburg Cathedral choir) - a title which Georg would not have accepted - the Pope emeritus said, if their Mother was still alive. The Pope emeritus recalled that their mother died around the same time as Kapellmeister Schrems, the predecessor of Georg Ratzinger, as Domkapellmeister of Regensburger Domspatzen.
He remarked that this service became “more and more of a joy” for his late brother, adding however that “hostility and rejection were not lacking, especially in the beginning.” At the same time, he noted that his brother became a father figure to the many young people who remained with him in the choir.
“My heartfelt thanks also go to all of them at this hour when I was allowed to experience again how he had become and always realized himself again as a priestly person, being a priest and musician,” he wrote.
The second characteristic about his brother that the Pope emeritus remembered is “his cheerfulness, his humor, and his joy for the good gifts of creation."
“At the same time, however," he wrote, “he was a man of direct speech as he expressed his convictions openly.”
He said that despite living in almost total blindness for more than 20 years, his brother “accepted” his situation and “overcame it inwardly.”
A man of God
The Pope emeritus pointed out that “sobriety and honesty were the true center” of his late brother’s life, adding that “in the end, he was always a man of God.”
Recalling his last visit with his brother, the Pope emeritus said that, when he said “goodbye” to his brother on 22 June, he “knew it would be a farewell from this world forever.” Yet he expressed surety in the fact that “the good Lord, who has given us this union in this world, reigns in the other world and will give us a new union.”
“In the end, I would like to thank him for allowing me to be with him again in the last days of his life,” he wrote. “He did not ask me to visit him. But I felt it was time to go see him again. I am deeply grateful for this inner sign that the Lord has given me.”
In conclusion, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI thanked his brother. “Thank you, dear Georg, for all that you have done, suffered and given me.” He also thanked Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer for his assistance.