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Pope Benedict XVI and his brother Georg visit their parents' and sister's graveImage: AP

Pope Enjoys Private Time Near End of German Trip

DW staff / AFP (jam)
September 13, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI knelt in prayer at the graves of his mother, father and sister on Wednesday in the emotional highpoint of his six-day visit to his native Bavaria.


The private prayers at the tiny Ziegetsdorf cemetery outside Regensburg came on the penultimate day of the pontiff's trip, which the Vatican said had been reserved for "private time" for the pope and his elder brother Georg, 82.

Georg Ratzinger, an 82-year-old retired priest in frail health, leaned on his walking stick as he stood beside his kneeling brother.

The scene, screened from a crowd of wellwishers by a two-meter high hedge, was shown on German television. The pilgrims and locals were kept back behind security barriers.

The grave, covered in flowers and shrubs, contains the bodies of the pontiff's father Joseph, his mother Maria, and his sister Maria, who died aged 69 in 1991 after spending many years caring for Benedict during his time as a cardinal at the Vatican.

Following the 20-minute visit, the two brothers were driven in a cavalcade of black cars the 500 meters to the house in the neighboring Regensburg suburb of Pentling. Benedict has owned the 1960s-built two-storey house since his time as a theology professor at the local university.

On Tuesday, he said he was "very moved" and "a little taken aback" when he heard how many people "helped to make my house and my garden a little more beautiful."

"Ordinary fellow"

Local woman Elke Pinter, 52, told AFP: "Ordinary people from around here have done up the house. They've painted it and planted flowers in the garden just because they were grateful.

Papst Benedikt in Deutschland Regensburg Orgel
Pope Benedict XVI sprinkles holy water as he blesses the new organ in the Alte Kapelle in RegensburgImage: AP

"We used to see Cardinal Ratzinger walking around quite a lot," said her husband Mathias, 56. "None of us would have thought that this ordinary man would have become pope, but to us he's remained a nice ordinary fellow".

The brothers had earlier had lunch and a brief rest at Georg's house in Regensburg.

The two brothers dined together on Wednesday night, this time in Benedict's house, before the pope was scheduled to be driven back to temporary residence in Regensburg's St Wolfgang Seminary.

Earlier, in his only public appearance on a day mostly reserved for his family, Benedict presided over a ceremony to inaugurate a new organ in Regensburg's ancient church of Our Lady of the Old Chapel.

The pope, looking sprightly for his 79 years, paused to greet a crowd of several thousand people outside the church, clasping their outstreched hands and blessing babies held out to him by their parents.

In an address to bless the organ, he appealed for unity within the Catholic Church, where pressure groups have challenged the pope's traditional views of marriage and the family.

"Just as in an organ an expert hand must constantly bring disharmony back to consonance, so we in the Church ... always need to find anew, through our communion in faith, harmony in the praise of God and in fraternal love."

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