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My Brother, the Pope Hardcover – March 1, 2012
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I have no hesitation in saying that My Brother the Pope is not just a fascinating book but a unique one, as well. In its pages we are shown not just a Pope, a Cardinal, or even a great theologian; we are granted an intimate look at the life of one beloved brother through the eyes of another. Here we come to know the world that formed Pope Benedict XVI, from the gentle love of his deeply Catholic Bavarian family to his struggles with the brutal Nazi regime that ruled his country during his youth. Anyone who reads this book from beginning to end will truly come to know and admire the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI. --Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Author, Arise from Darkness
Nobody knows the Holy Father better than his brother, as is evident in this heartwarming and engaging memoir. On the one hand, Monsignor Ratzinger offers an intimate portrait of the Pope's family life, granting us privileged access to the inner sanctum of Pope Benedict's childhood and youth; on the other hand, the chilling accounts of life in Germany during the rise and fall of the Nazis are nothing short of startling. Pope Benedict is not likely to write his autobiography; in its absence, this is the next best thing. --Joseph Pearce , Author, The Quest for Shakespeare
In My Brother, the Pope, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, brother of Pope Benedict XVI, gives remarkable testimony to the inestimable role of parents and family in the life of a young man called to the priesthood. The careful and rich account of the life of the family of Joseph and Maria Peitner Ratzinger, provided by their second child and eldest son Georg, permits the reader to see directly how God works through the family in calling a young man to the priesthood. The family assists him in responding to the priestly vocation and accompanies him, as both priest and son or brother, throughout a lifetime. Georg Ratzinger has, in a most special way, provided the world with a treasured means to understand more deeply God's great gift of its universal shepherd, Pope Benedict XVI, who remains always his brother. --Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
About the Author
Georg Ratzinger (born 1924) is a Catholic priest and musician. From 1964 to 1994, he was the conductor of the Regensburger Domspatzen, the world-famous cathedral choir of Regensburg, Germany. He is the elder brother of Pope Benedict XVI.
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The editing is very careful and well done: where necessary, more complete explanations of certain historical and geographical references made in passing by GR are given in italics. In this way, the editor provides fuller background where needed, but at the same time it's completely clear which words are GR's and which aren't--thereby avoiding any confusion. It would, in short, be difficult to improve this wonderful work!
When I started the book, Pope Benedict had not yet resigned. About a third of the way through, he had resigned, and by the time I finished the book, a new Pope had just been elected. It isn't that the book is long and time consuming or complicated; rather, it is fascinating and I allowed for some interruptions and the joy of coming back to the pages. It was more like not eating a box of Godiva Chocolate all at one sitting! And each time, reopening the book, there was more to hold my interest.
The factual telling of the Nazi period was chilling, and far too reminiscent of what is happening in America today. But with faith and family, the Ratzinger family emerged from the war intact. It was fascinating to read that Josef Ratzinger simply walked away from the army near the end of the war. He got home first, and then brother Georg arrived. I loved the interspersion of moments like Georg walking into the family home on his return from the war, walking to the piano, and playing the "Te Deum," (We Praise Thee, O God!) It is recounting of such moments that makes the reader feel present on the scene.
The mechanism of recounting the story is particularly effective. One senses hearing Georg's own words and then interspersed in italics into the text, are the observations and information from Michael Hesemann. The two approaches work very well together and turn out to be an excellent way to tell the story.
I found myself in much reflection as the events of resignation and Conclave were unfolding in Rome, with a much better understanding of the man, Josef Ratzinger, and why he would have chosen to step down from the highest position in the world. My only (very slight) disappointment was not learning a bit more about the sister to brother Josef and Georg, who loyally served both of them in their priestly ministries.
Inevitably one draws a comparison to Bob Dolan's book about his famous brother, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. There is absolutely no comparison; I scored the Dolan book a one star, simply because there was no lower rating.
Early on, both boys planned to become priests. However, to the great unhappiness of the entire family, Hitler came to power in Germany. Their father had to be very careful not to say the wrong thing and thought it best to retire at that time. Both boys were drafted into the German army during World War II. With the help of Divine Providence, they both survived the war after harrowing experiences. At one point, Georg was wounded by a bullet in his arm--but fully recovered. When the boys returned home in one piece from the war, they were both confirmed in their vocations to the priesthood. It was clear to them that God had spared them for a special reason. To the great joy of their parents, the Ratzinger boys were ordained as priests on the same day. They have now celebrated their 60th anniversary of ordination.
Georg had a musical bent and eventually went on to become the conductor of the famous boys' choir in Regensburg, from 1964 to 1994. Joseph had another talent. He was brilliant and became a theology professor--and was known as the Mozart of theology. He later was asked to become the Archbishop of Munich. This is not something that he wanted and he did not think he was up to the task. However, he accepted this as the will of God and put himself into his new duties. Later, Pope John Paul II asked him to work in the Vatican. Again, this is not something that he wanted but he accepted it as the will of God. He fulfilled his new duties to the best of his ability. Three times he tried to retire, but each time Pope John Paul asked him to stay on. When the Pope died, Joseph Ratzinger planned to retire. But all this changed when he was elected Pope. Again, this is not something he wanted but accepted it and has fulfilled his duties as Pope to the best of his ability.
All through their lives, the two brothers have remained close and always vacation together. For many years, their sister Maria was the housekeeper for Joseph, until her death. Msgr. Georg now spends the summer months with Pope Benedict at the Pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Joseph has always remained the same. He is a kind and gentle soul. Becoming Pope did not change him.
After the election of the Pope Benedict, Georg received many calls from reporters which he did not want to answer. His solution was to put a separate phone line in his house to which only Pope Benedict had the number. When that phone rings, Georg knows it is his brother, the Pope, calling.
This book is a great book for someone who is considering the priesthood. Georg makes it clear that the priesthood is a great blessing. The spiritual rewards are much greater than the sacrifices required.
Both Ratzingers want the liturgy to be done well. To them, music is a way of praising the Lord and must be done well.