.- ThaddÃ¤us KÃ¼hnel is not only the Popeâs âcourier,â heâs his chauffuer, friend, and confidant. A 28 year-long friendship unites them and remains to this day, despite a few difficulties.
KÃ¼hnel, who is Director of the Bank of Munich, met then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1978 at the home of the Sisters of Mercy at Bad Adelholzen. In an interview with German television, KÃ¼hnel explained that he is known as the âPopeâs courierâ because when Cardinal Ratzinger was called to work in the Roman curia, he offered to bring âBavarian thingsâ to him in Rome, which he did and still does to this day.
âThe first thing I brought to Rome, in my car, was a paschal candle, as well as some fruit from Adelholzen and mineral water. For Christmas I brought him his Advent wreath, as they canât be easily found in Italy. Up to now I have brought some 40 different objects,â KÃ¼hnel explained. âHe likes the Christmas cookies that women from Bavarian parishes bake at home as well as those made at certain monasteries. He also likes the chocolates made in Aachenâ, he added.
KÃ¼hnel said heâs also acted as Cardinal Ratzingerâs chauffuer and that he often picked him up at the airport and âbrought him to Pentling or Ratisbona to his brotherâs home. Sometimes I drove the whole familyâthe cardinal, his brother Georg and their sister Maria. The little trips we took to Mallersdorf, Brixen, Linz, Klagenfurt, and Bad Hofgasteinâmost of the time with the entire familyâwere very beautiful,â KÃ¼hnel said.
KÃ¼hnel said he has always been amazed at the Popeâs great intellect, citing an experience two years ago as an example. âWhen he was still a cardinal, he came to Germany to celebrate the Ascension of the Lord in 2004. As we were driving he said, âI have to think now about what I am going to say.â After he finished his homily, several people asked to have a copy. They could not believe that the cardinal had not written down a single word and had simply preached from the podium.â
KÃ¼hnel nowadays travels to Rome once a month and usually meets with the Pope. âEven after his election as Pontiff, we wanted to maintain this tradition,â he said, adding that the Pope often spends a generous length of time conversing with him until the nuns call the him to dinner.
âSince April of last year it has become more difficult for us to meet. Before, I simply picked him up and we drove together to a good restaurant. Obviously this is no longer possible. As Pope he cannot move about as freely, since his security must be first,â KÃ¼hnel said.
âBefore the conclave we spoke by phone and he said to me: âMr. KÃ¼hnel, letâs keep in touchâ, as if he had already had a premonition,â KÃ¼hnel went on. âWhen he was elected, I was not in Rome, but rather sitting in my office in Munich nursing a broken leg. When I saw the ceremony on television, I was profoundly moved. On the one hand I was full of joy, on the other, nostalgia. I knew that everything has an end at some point. Joseph Ratzinger is no longer a private person. Now he is the Pope,â KÃ¼hnel said.