Maike Hickson


Pope Benedict leaves Vatican to travel to Germany to visit ailing brother

The spontaneous trip is reported to have taken Vatican observers by surprise.
Fri Jun 19, 2020 - 9:25 pm EST
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Benedict XVI in 2014. Franco Origlia / Getty Images

June 19, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Yesterday, news broke that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI unexpectedly left the Vatican in order to fly to Regensburg and to be with his ailing 96-year-old brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger. There is already talk about his possible protracted stay in Germany. Michael Fuchs, the vicar general of the Diocese of Regensburg, let it be known that “it would be an honor, should he stay permanently.” Observers are asking questions about these developments.

Speaking with the German Catholic weekly Die Tagespost, Clemens Neck, the press speaker of the Diocese of Regensburg, quoted Vicar General Michael Fuchs with the words that it would be an “honor” should Pope Benedict remain permanently in Regensburg. Neck then added that a retired pope belongs to the Vatican. The length of his stay, continued the press speaker, is exclusively depending upon the physical condition of the retired pope.

As the local newspaper Passauer Neue Presse reported yesterday, Neck said the reason for this sudden visit in Germany was Georg Ratzinger’s bad health: “Georg is obviously very ill,” he stated. According to his own caretaker, Sister Laurente, Georg Ratzinger is said to have constantly checked the clock and was eagerly waiting for his brother’s visit yesterday. Since then, they have celebrated two Holy Masses, one today on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Benedict had arrived at Munich airport yesterday around 11 A.M.

According to the German tabloid Die Bild, the plans for this sudden trip to Germany seem to have developed on Wednesday, after Pope Benedict had received a call from Regensburg, telling him about the worsening health of his brother, who had recently become confined to his bed. He then consulted with Pope Francis. Many observers in the Vatican say they were surprised by this trip. One source in Rome told LifeSite that the new biography by Peter Seewald on the life of Pope Benedict that was just published might well need a chapter added.

Rome correspondent Professor Armin Schwibach of gave LifeSite the following comment:

First: the resignation — a unique event in the Church’s history. Now: the trip of a retired Pope to his homeland, for personal reasons, which have to be respected. It is rare that the world has seen such love between brothers. And it is only about that. Both are two decisive events in the Church’s history, after which nothing will remain the same as before. As we all were able to experience after February 11, 2013. Such singular events happen. And it is difficult how to handle them. In itself, it is about an earthquake, a metaphysical Churchquake — which should be seen and used as such.  Oremus pro Pontifice emerito. This sign is stronger than the lightning that struck St. Peter's on that fatal evening.

According to the Tagespost, no public appearances of Pope Benedict are planned. The Diocese of Regensburg is asking people to respect the privacy of the retired pope and his brother. The official statement says that “it is perhaps the last time the two brothers see each other.”

As of now, Pope Benedict has visited his brother each day twice, while also recovering himself from the strenuous trip at the priestly seminary of the diocese in Regensburg, where he lives during his stay. Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his private secretary, has come with him to Germany, as did a religious sister, his physician, and a male nurse.

The two Ratzinger brothers have been close all their lives and stayed in close contact by way of phone calls and yearly visits on the part of Georg Ratzinger. They were ordained to the priesthood on the same day in 1951. Their parents are buried in Regensburg, where Msgr. Georg Ratzinger headed the Regensburger Domspatzen choir for decades. According to the Bild report, Benedict regretted that he was not able to see his sister Maria before she died in 1991, and he wanted to be present for his brother in his final days. As sources from his surroundings say, the retired pope wishes to remain in Regensburg until his brother’s death.

LifeSiteNews has reached out to the Diocese of Regensburg for comment and will update this report should more developments occur. As we are going to press, the Diocese of Regensburg once more insists that no photos or public appearances are welcomed.

  benedict xvi, catholic, georg ratzinger

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