Germans eligible to vote headed to the polls Sunday. Pope Benedict XVI, who is still a registered voter in Bavaria, did not cast his ballot, his brother told DW-WORLD.
The pope's choice for chancellor? Benedict is not going to tell
Joseph Ratzinger, as the pope was known until his election on April 19, might be a head of state and spiritual leader of 1.25 billion Catholics. But he's also still a German citizen: Even though he's lived in Rome for more than two decades, Benedict still has a German address in the Bavarian town of Pentling, just south of Regensburg.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his wife, Doris Schröder-Köpf, already met the pope after his inauguration in April
Unlike most Germans, Benedict also had a chance to get a first-hand impression of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his conservative challenger, Angela Merkel, when he met with them during his visit to Cologne for the Catholic World Youth Day in August.
Like the other 61.9 million eligible voters, the pope most likely received his election notice at his home address. He could have applied for an absentee ballot, citing important reasons for not being able to make it to his local polling station.
"Sundays are bad, because I kind of have to run a major world religion," comes to mind.
Pope does n 't wa n t to get i n volved
His brother, Georg Ratzinger, told DW-WORLD that he himself had already voted via absentee ballot.
The pope visited his brother in a Rome hospital, where Georg Ratzinger was getting treatment for heart problems, in early August
"I'm almost blind," said the 81-year-old former musical director of Regensburg's cathedral boys choir. "I couldn't handle it at the polling station."
Benedict, however, made a conscious decision not to vote, Ratzinger said.
"He's the sovereign of the Vatican and doesn't think it's appropriate for him to get involved in the affairs of another state -- that's what we've discussed," Ratzinger said, adding that his brother would definitely follow the election, albeit "not passionately."
Benedict's interest in political issues has been criticized by some in the past. In June, he reportedly backed a boycott of an Italian referendum aimed at repealing restrictions on artificial insemination and embryonic research. The Vatican has also called on Spanish civil servants to refuse to marry gay couples after the Spanish government recently legalized such unions.
Germa n churches: Go vote!
Back in Germany, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the head of the country's Catholic bishops' congregation, defended the church's election appeal after some criticized it as an inappropriate attempt to influence voters.
Cardinal Lehmann (left) and Wolfgang Huber, the head of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany
"It's the church's responsibility to draw attention to issues and (election) criteria," Lehman wrote in a church newspaper, adding that the appeal, which focused on topics such as unemployment, social welfare, marriage and family, was only meant to help people to orient themselves and encourage them to vote.
Protestant church leaders in Germany especially encouraged young people to head to the polls while staying away from commenting on specific issues.