Georg Ratzinger, brother of Pope emeritus Benedict, dies in Regensburg
On 22 August 2008, thanking the mayor of Castel Gandolfo for having granted Georg honorary citizenship, Benedict XVI said of his brother, “From the beginning of my life my brother has always been for me not only a companion, but also a trustworthy guide. For me he has been a point of orientation and of reference with the clarity and determination of his decisions. He has always shown me the path to take, even in difficult situations.”
“My brother and I,” said Georg Ratzinger in an interview eleven years ago, “were both altar boys, we both served Mass. It was soon clear to us, first to me and then to him, that our life would be at the service of the Church.” And he shared memories of their childhood: “At Tittmoning, Joseph had received Confirmation from Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, the great Archbishop of Munich. He had been impressed, and said he too wanted to become a cardinal. But, only a few days after this encounter, seeing the painter who painted the walls of our house, he also said that when he grew up, he wanted to be a painter…”
After recalling the dark years of the war, and their father’s opposition to Nazism, Georg spoke about the love of music they shared: “In our house everyone loved music. Our father had a zither that he often played in the evening. We used to sing together. It was always an event for us. In Marktl am Inn, later, there was a music band that fascinated me. I always thought that music was one of the most beautiful things God created. My brother always loved music too. Maybe I infected him.”
Georg was a forthright man, little accustomed to diplomacy. As an example, he never hid the fact that he did not rejoice at his brother’s election to the papacy in April 2005: “I must admit, I didn’t expect it, and was a bit disappointed,” he said. “Given his heavy commitments, I understood that our relationship would be notably curtailed. In any case, behind the human decision of the cardinals, there is the will of God, and to this we must say yes.”
In 2011, in an interview with a German magazine, Georg Ratzinger said, “If he could no longer carry out his duties from the point of view of his physical condition, my brother should have the courage to resign.” And he would be among the first to be informed, months in advance, of Benedict’s historic decision to renounce the Petrine ministry for reasons of age. “Age makes itself felt,” Georg observed after the announcement of the resignation in February 2013. “My brother desires more peace in old age.” Despite health issues with his legs and eyesight, the older brother of the Pope emeritus continued to travel from Regensburg to Rome, staying at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery for various periods, spending time with Benedict and keeping him company.
Georg also appeared, in segments excerpted from various interviews, in a half-hour documentary by journalist Tassilo Forchheimer for Bayerischer Rundfunk, the public broadcaster in Bavaria, which was aired in January 2020.