Brother, Priest and Professor.
Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria 1951 – 1959.
Joseph Ratzinger and his brother Georg were both ordained in 1951 on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the founding apostles of Rome. Joseph was 24, Georg 27. There were forty new priests on this radiant summer day in June. Joseph Ratzinger remembers his ordination in his memoir “Milestones”:
“ One should not be superstitious; but, at the moment when the elderly archbishop laid his hands on me, a little bird – perhaps a lark – flew up from the high altar and trilled a little joyful song. And I could not but see in this a reassurance from on high, as if I heard the words, ‘This is good, you are on the right way’ .”
Many stations in the life of the Ratzinger brothers were parallel. They had lived through the dark times of Nazi dictatorship. They were drafted as soldiers at the end of the war and became POWs after the German capitulation. Already in their boyhood, they had decided to become priests. They studied together at the seminary in Freising while also attending philosophy and theology seminars at the war-torn university of Munich. After their ordination, the young priests were assigned to churches in Munich and worked in parishes. However, their outstanding intellectual inclination led them soon back to academic careers and both eventually became professors at the venerable university of the 2000-year old city of Regensburg.
When Joseph was elected pope on April 19, 2005, his brother Father Georg Ratzinger back in Germany was concerned. “I’m not very happy ,” Georg told a press agency. “He’s okay, and his health is good. I just wish for him that his health holds out and that his office isn’t a worry and a nuisance to him .” If this does not sound as upbeat as one would expect, it reveals the Bavarian characteristic of not showing too much cheer and boasting if an honor comes to you or your family. Understatement and a down to earth attitude is a common trait among Bavarian people. There might also have been a trace of genuine disappointment in Father Georg’s reaction. When Pope John Paul II called Cardinal Ratzinger from Munich to Rome in 1981 as his Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith it was not an easy farewell of the Bavarian to his homeland. Georg knew that his brother was looking forward to coming back in his old age. Becoming Pope, however, means next to many other and much more important aspects, living in Italy for the rest of one’s life. Just before Joseph’s election the 79- and 82-year old brothers were looking forward to a common retirement in Bavaria.
 Quote in: David Gibson, The Rule of Benedict. Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World, HarperSanFrancisco 2006, Page 160.
 David Gibson, The Rule of Benedict. Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World, HarperSanFrancisco 2006, Page 9.