Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, passed away one week ago today at the age of 96 (Click to read an official Vatican biography of Georg).
Afterwards Benedict XVI received an outpouring of support and condolences from across the globe, especially from Pope Francis who sent him a heartfelt letter expressing his closeness to the former pope during a time of grieving:
“You had the sensitivity to be the first to inform me of the news of the death of your beloved brother, Monsignor Georg. I wish to renew my deepest sympathy and spiritual closeness to you in this moment of sorrow. May the Lord of life, in His merciful goodness, 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. Always united in faith in the Risen Christ, the source of hope and peace, Filially and fraternally, Francis.”
Yesterday, Georg’s funeral was held at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Regensburg, Germany. During the funeral celebrated by Regensburg Bishop Rudolf Voderholze, Archbishop Georg Gänswein read an emotional letter written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI penned to be read during Mass.
Read the words prepared by Benedict XVI for his brother’s passing below.
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. May God reward you richly, Georg, for everything you have achieved, for what you have suffered, and for what you have given to me. I would like to thank you for being with him again in the last days of his life. He didn’t ask for a visit from me. But I felt that it was the hour to go to him again. I am deeply grateful for this inner sign that the Lord has given me. Above all he was a man of God. Even though he did not put his piety on display, it was the actual centre of his life, even more so than his sobriety and honesty. My brother received and understood the priesthood call as a musical call. When he finally was appointed to the position of Cathedral Choirmaster in Regensburg, it was both a moment of joy and of pain for him, as our mother had passed away almost at the same time as Cathedral Choirmaster Schrems had. Had our mother still been alive, he would not have accepted the call to be the position of choirmaster in Regensburg. This role – though bought at the price of a great deal of suffering – more and more became a joyful role for him. In the end, I would like to thank him for allowing me to be with him again in the last days of his life. He did not ask me to visit him. But I felt it was time to go see him again. I am deeply grateful for this inner sign that the Lord has given me. Thank you, dear Georg, for all that you have done, suffered and given me.”
Ending his letter, he said: “At this hour when you offer my brother the final brotherly service and guide him on his final earthly path, I am with you.”
“The echo of his life and work, which I have received in these days in the form of letters, telegrams and emails [of people] from many countries, social and professional backgrounds, goes far beyond what I could have imagined. [They] wrote to me in a way that touched my heart. Each one should have a personal answer. Unfortunately I lack the time and strength to do so. I can only thank everyone for taking part in these hours and days.”
He closed: “Cardinal Newman’s sentence has come true for me right now: ‘Cor ad cor loquitur’ – heart speaks to heart.”