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Benedict XVI returns to Rome after visiting ill brother in Germany

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by Courtney Mares

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2020 / 06:00 am MT (CNA).- Pope emeritus Benedict XVI arrived back in Rome Monday after a four-day trip to Germany to visit his ailing brother.

The Diocese of Regensburg reported June 22 that 93-year-old Benedict XVI said goodbye to his 96-year-old brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who is in poor health, before departing for Munich airport.

“It is perhaps the last time that the two brothers, Georg and Joseph Ratzinger, will see each other in this world,” the Regensburg diocese said in an earlier statement.

Benedict XVI was accompanied on the journey to the airport by Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg. Before the pope emeritus boarded an Italian air force plane he was greeted by Bavaria’s premier Markus Söder. The Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German daily newspaper, quoted Söder as saying that the encounter was a moment of “joy and melancholy.”

Benedict XVI was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in the town of Marktl in Bavaria in 1927. His older brother Georg is his last living family member.

On his final full day in Bavaria, Benedict XVI offered Sunday Mass with his brother in Luzengasse, Regensburg. He later went to pray at the shrine of St. Wolfgang, the patron saint of Regensburg diocese.

Archbishop Nikola Eterović, the apostolic nuncio in Germany, traveled from Berlin to meet with the pope emeritus in Regensburg over the weekend.

“It is an honor to welcome the pope emeritus again in Germany, even in this difficult family situation,” Eterović said June 21 following their meeting.

The nuncio said his impression during his meeting with Benedict was “that he feels good here in Regensburg.”

The former pope arrived in Bavaria on Thursday, June 16. Immediately upon his arrival, Benedict went to see his brother, the diocese reported. The brothers celebrated Mass together at the house in Regensburg and the pope emeritus then went to the diocesan seminary, where he stayed throughout the visit. In the evening, he returned to see his brother again.

On Friday, the two celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, according to a statement.

On Saturday the former pope visited the residence in Pentling, just outside Regensburg, where he lived while serving as a professor from 1970 to 1977.

His last time seeing the home was during his 2006 pastoral trip to Bavaria.

The diocese said Benedict XVI then stopped at the Ziegetsdorf cemetery to spend time in prayer at the graves of his parents and sister.

Christian Schaller, deputy head of the Pope Benedict XVI Institute, told Regensburg diocese that during the pope emeritus’ visit to his former home “memories awoke.”

“It was a trip back in time,” he said.

Benedict stayed at his Pentling home and in its garden for about 45 minutes, and was reportedly moved by old family portraits.

During his visit to the cemetery an Our Father and Hail Mary were prayed.

“I have the impression that the visit is a source of strength for both brothers,” Schaller said.

According to Regensburg diocese, “Benedict XVI is traveling in the company of his secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his doctor, his nurse and a religious sister. The Pope emeritus made the decision to travel to his brother in Regensburg at short notice, after consulting with Pope Francis.”

Msgr. Georg Ratzinger is a former choir master of the Regensburger Domspatzen, the cathedral choir of Regensburg.

On June 29, 2011, he celebrated his 60th anniversary as a priest in Rome together with his brother. Both men were ordained priests in 1951.

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