HAVING the Pope as your brother might be rather daunting to most people, but not Msgr Georg Ratzinger.
He said having Pope Benedict XVI as a brother had not unravelled their strong fraternal ties or dimmed the deep affection the two feel for each other.
Soon after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope on April 19, 2005, Msgr Ratzinger immediately told his younger brother that he was afraid his new mission as leader of the universal Church would keep them apart and cool their friendship.
Instead, the changes to the brothers’ relationship have not been so drastic, the 82-year-old musician and retired director of the famed Regensburg Boys’ Choir told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on April 16.
“We still call each other up regularly and frequently, and we see each other every time it’s possible,” said the monsignor, who lives in the southern German city of Regensburg.
Though getting together is not as easy as it was before his brother became Pope, Msgr Ratzinger said the things they chat about and the affection they share have not changed.
The two Bavarian brothers were born three years apart and shared many similar experiences.
Early in life, each felt a calling to serve the Church as a priest, and they spent the first part of their seminary studies together in the city of Freising.
As young boys, they both were forced into military service under the Nazi regime, and both ended up in prisoner of war camps.
“When we were made prisoners by the Allies, our capture and imprisonment were like a liberation for us” because it brought the “un-Christian” military service to an end, Msgr Ratzinger said.
Though Joseph Ratzinger spent six weeks in an Allied POW camp in Germany and Georg Ratzinger four months in a POW camp in Italy, both in 1945, each befriended other imprisoned Catholics, and get togethers with theology students turned into “passionate discussions about faith”, Msgr Ratzinger told La Repubblica.
The two brothers also share an intense love of culture and music.
“From the time we were young, music and playing music together was a dimension of the divine message for us,” Msgr Ratzinger said.
But, like most siblings, the two brothers have disagreed, even over religious matters, he said.
“It’s happened that, in the beginning, I would not understand some of his bold” decisions right away, he said.
But, after some thought, he said he always realised his younger brother had been right.
His brother is able to “look at faith and the world from a different perspective” while the monsignor said his own views were perhaps more affected by everyday opinions.
Msgr Ratzinger said the qualities he most admires in his brother are his unpretentious nature, his humble spirit, and the seriousness with which he tackles every task.