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German Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, brother of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, dies age 96

Farewell: Pope Benedict XVI greets his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, during a concert for the priest’s 85th birthday in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in 2009. Msgr Ratzinger died on July 1 in Regensburg, Germany, at the age of 96. Photos: CNS

MONSIGNOR Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, died aged 96 on July 1.

On July 2, Pope Francis wrote a letter of condolence to Pope Benedict, assuring him of his prayers and entrusting his late brother to God.

“You had the sensitivity to be the first to inform me of the news of the death of your beloved brother, Monsignor Georg,” Pope Francis said in the letter.

“I wish to renew my deepest sympathy and spiritual closeness to you in this moment of sorrow.

“I assure you of my prayers of suffrage for the late and lamented, that the Lord of life, in His merciful goodness, may welcome him into heaven and grant him the reward prepared for faithful servants of the Gospel.

“I pray also for you, Your Holiness, invoking the Father, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the support of Christian hope and tender divine consolation.” Known for his musical talent, Msgr Ratzinger (pictured) conducted the Regensburger Domspatzen, the cathedral choir of Regensberg, for 30 years.

The choir traced its history back to the 10th Century.

He first encountered the choir he would go on to direct in 1941, aged 17, when they performed in Salzburg for the 150th anniversary of Mozart’s death.

During the Second World War, Msgr Ratzinger was drafted into the Wehrmacht.

He was wounded during a fight in Bolsena, Italy, and later became a US prisoner of war towards the end of the war.

He was released and returned to his home in July, 1945.

Less than one year later, he and his younger brother Joseph entered the seminary in Munich and Freising archdiocese.

Pope Benedict and Msgr Ratzinger were ordained to the priesthood together in 1951 and have always been close.

While his brother was Pope and even after he stepped down from the papacy, Msgr Ratzinger would come to Vatican City to spend Christmas and a summer holiday with his brother.

Msgr Ratzinger revealed in a 2011 interview that he still had the stole and cassock from their ordination day.

He worked his way to becoming chorus master of Regensburger Domspatzen in 1964 and remained with them until he retired in 1994.

Pope Benedict visited his brother for four days and returned just over a week before his death.

He watched his brother’s funeral via livestream, unable to make it there in person.

His secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, read a message for him at Msgr Ratzinger’s funeral.

“When I said goodbye to him in the morning on Monday, June 22, we knew it would be his farewell to this world forever. But we also knew that the benevolent God, who gave us this togetherness in this world, will also rule in the other world and will give us a new togetherness there,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote in the message read aloud at the funeral on July 8.

“May God reward you richly, Georg, for everything you have achieved, for what you have suffered, and for what you have given to me.”

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