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Pope’s former neighbors opt to protect his privacy and reject lucrative offer from the media

.- Neighbors of a home where Pope Benedict XVI once lived in Germany have shown this week that their friendship with the Pontiff does not have a price tag.  Rupert Hofbauer and his wife rejected an offer of $128,000 to allow photographers to take pictures of the Pope during the only private day of his visit to the country.

The Pope has reserved September 13 to visit the home he lived in while a professor in Pentling in Bavaria.  He intends to spend the day with this brother, Father Georg Ratzinger, and hopes to do so away from the media.

According to German state television, Hofbauer rejected “an offer of $128,000 dollars which a group of cameramen made in order to be allowed to take pictures from his house,” hoping to catch a shot of the Pope in the comfort of his former home.

Hofbauer is not only the Pope’s neighbor; he also happens to be the caretaker of the home where then Cardinal Ratzinger once lived.  He said he rejected the offer out respect for their relationship.  “I cannot fall out of graces with the Holy Father,” he explained.

In 1977, the renowned theology professor of Ratisbona, Father Josef Ratzinger, was named Archbishop of Munich and Freising.  After receiving the news, he asked Hofbauer to take care of his home and his garden.

Since April 19, 2005, the day Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, Hofbauer, who is a retired firefighter from the city of Ratisbona, have also provided information to those who come to visit the place where Pope Benedict XVI once lived.

“I hope they allow me to personally open the door,” Hofbauer said, adding with a smile, “The Pope holds the keys to the kingdom on his coat-of-arms, but he doesn’t have the keys to his own home.”

Preparations

According to German television, Hofbauer and his wife are planting new flowers and plants in the Pope’s garden in preparation for his visit.  “The one in charge of the arrangements is my wife, as she is very familiar with what the Holy Father likes,” he said.

A man from Pentling who used to be an altar boy for Cardinal Ratzinger recently painted the home and received a personal thank you from the Pontiff.  Other preparations include a new gate, made by students from Weiden and Amberg, and the refinishing of the deck and the entrance.

Hofbauer has a special gift for the Pope, who has a weak spot for sweets.  For several weeks he has collected over 35 pounds of honey from beehives in the garden.

Two other residents of the Pope’s home are anxious for his arrival: a golden retriever named Ingo and a cat named Chico.  “In fact, the Pope misses his two pets,” Hofbauer said. “Every time someone from Bavaria visits him in Rome, he asks how is pets are doing.”

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