Chico was a red tabby cat who belonged to the Ratzinger’s neighbors in Pentling, Bavaria, immortalized in the illustrated book, “Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as Told By a Cat.”
“Chico was a big reddish cat with a lot of character,” Perego, the author of the children’s book, told CNA. She said that she was inspired to write the book while researching Benedict’s early life in Bavaria and meeting Chico, whom the international press were already referring to as “his cat.”
In the book, Chico the cat narrates the life of Joseph Ratzinger from his childhood in Germany to his election as the 265th Roman pontiff. Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the pope’s personal secretary, wrote in the book’s introduction: “The pope also loves cats and all animals because they are creatures of God.”
Chico, who was already fully grown at the time of Benedict’s election as pope, died in the fall of 2012, according to Perego.
During Benedict XVI’s apostolic trip to the United Kingdom in 2010, he visited the Birmingham Oratory established by St. John Henry Newman.
At the oratory, the pope encountered an unexpected friend — a fluffy black cat named Pushkin. The oratory cat wore a ribbon with the papal colors, yellow and white, around his neck for the occasion.
Journalists snapped photos as Pope Benedict stroked the cat’s chin and ears. He said: “Aren’t you pretty? What’s his name? How old is he?”
Pushkin, who was 10 years old at the time, went on to live another eight years and even penned his own memoir, “Pushkin the Pontifical Puss: Tails of an Oratory Cat,” which also details the time he met Princess Michael of Kent.
Contessina and Zorro
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After Benedict XVI retired to Mater Ecclesiae Monastery inside the walls of Vatican City State, he continued to greet some of the cats who lived in the Vatican gardens. Two of the Vaticats in particular made an impression.
“Contessa and Zorro, two cats that live in our gardens, come often to say hello to the pope emeritus,” Gänswein told the Italian magazine BenEssere on March 25, 2016.
At a time when the pope emeritus was largely hidden away from the world, a photo of Benedict holding the little gray and white cat named Zorro caught the world’s attention.
Contessa, also known by the diminutive, Contessina, was a black and white kitten who was also photographed alongside the pope during his years of retirement living within Vatican City’s walls.
As Catholics remember Benedict XVI ahead of his funeral this week, some have found ways to honor the late pope, as well as his love of cats.