Recounting their rural Bavarian childhood and subsequent lifelong friendship, the elder brother of Pope Benedict XVI offers a privileged look at the personal side of the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics, reports CNS.
My Brother, the Pope, scheduled for publication yesterday (March 1) by Ignatius Press, is based on interviews with Msgr Georg Ratzinger by German writer Michael Hesemann and was originally published in German last year.
Joseph, the future Pope Benedict, was "very slight and delicate" at birth, Msgr Ratzinger says, and was "often sick" as an infant, with diphtheria among other ailments. Later on, Joseph's favorite toys were stuffed animals, and he was particularly attached to a pair of teddy bears.
Msgr. Ratzinger describes family life with their parents and older sister Maria as free of any overt conflict, "since each one settled that himself and with God in personal prayer. We did not talk about such things. ... Such problems became a part of our prayer."
Glimpses of the boys' destinies came early on. When a cardinal visited their small town in 1931, arriving in a black limousine, four-year-old Joseph exclaimed, "I'll be a cardinal someday!" Nevertheless, Msgr Ratzinger says, his brother was never ambitious, and external honours have been "always unwelcome" to him.
"My brother was somewhat better behaved than I," Msgr Ratzinger says, yet he recounts a boyhood prank in which the two tricked a local farmer into losing track of his oxcart.
Recreation of a more edifying sort came when the boys played at being priests, using a toy altar made for them by an uncle.
"It was a really beautiful high altar, which he even equipped with a rotating tabernacle," Msgr. Ratzinger recalls. "Naturally we used water instead of wine for the make-believe consecration."
The future Pope Benedict, now a proficient amateur pianist and lover of Mozart, "did not take to music quite as spontaneously as I did," says Msgr Ratzinger, who went on to become the choirmaster of the Regensburg, Germany, cathedral. His brother "was a little more restrained, although he is a very musical person," Msgr Ratzinger says.
FULL STORY The Pope's childhood, told by his brother (CNS)