A tribute from former Pope Benedict XVI was read out on Wednesday at the funeral of his elder brother Georg Ratzinger, a priest and choirmaster, who died last week aged 96.
Benedict’s long-serving private secretary Archbishop Georg Gaenswein choked back tears as he read the tribute, which recalled Ratzinger’s dedication to leading the famed cathedral choir in Regensburg, southern Germany, for 30 years.
“This service was a great joy to him,” the 93-year-old Benedict wrote, expressing gratitude that he had been able to pay his brother a final visit in June. It was Benedict’s first trip outside Italy since 2013, the year he resigned the papacy.
“He did not ask me to visit him, but I could feel that the time had come to travel to him once again,” Benedict said in his message.
The choir, the Regensburg Domspatzen – or Cathedral Sparrows – performed at the funeral service, where Rudolf Voderholzer, bishop of Regensburg, recalled Ratzinger’s early musical gift and his three decades of directing the Cathedral choir.
In his later years, Ratzinger faced criticism after allegations surfaced of choirboys having been abused by other staff there. Ratzinger always denied any knowledge of the abuse.
He and his brother entered a seminary to train as priests at the same time in January 1946 after both serving in the army before Nazi Germany’s defeat at the end of World War Two.
Even following Benedict’s elevation to the papacy in 2005, the brothers remained in close touch, with Georg telling the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that his brother would regularly call him on a private phone whose number only the Pontiff knew.