Benedict XVI visits his ailing brother in Germany

George Msgr. Georg Ratzinger. | Paul Badde/EWTN

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is making a private visit to Germany to see his ailing brother Msgr. Georg Ratzinger.

CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language partner agency, said June 18 it had confirmed with sources close to the pope emeritus that Benedict XVI was visiting his 96-year-old brother in Regensburg.

It is believed to be Benedict XVI's first trip outside Italy since he stood down as pope in 2013. 

CNA Deutsch reported that the private family visit was motivated by the state of Msgr. Ratzinger's health. 

Benedict, 93, made the journey from Rome to his Bavarian homeland with his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

In a statement June 18, Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops' conference, said: "It is with great joy and respect that I welcome Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to Germany. We are happy that he, who was a member of our bishops' conference for several years, has returned to his homeland, although the occasion is a sad one. The pope emeritus wants to be close to his brother, Protonotary Apostolic Dr. Georg Ratzinger, whose health has deteriorated."

"From the bottom of my heart I wish Pope emeritus Benedict XVI a good stay in Germany and the necessary rest to look after his brother privately. My prayers will accompany his stay and the journey of his brother Georg."

The Diocese of Regensburg said in a statement Thursday: "Pope emeritus Benedict XVI flew this morning from Rome to Bavaria to be at the side of his seriously ill 96-year-old brother. It is perhaps the last time that the two brothers, Georg and Joseph Ratzinger, will see each other in this world."

The diocese asked the public to respect the two brothers' privacy during the visit. 

"All people who wish to express their sympathy are invited to say a silent prayer for the two brothers," it said.

The statement continued: "The 93-year-old pope emeritus landed in Munich on Thursday, June 18, at about 11:45 a.m. There Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer welcomed him warmly and accompanied him on the journey to Regensburg. The pope emeritus is staying in the seminary of the Diocese of Regensburg. The date of his return journey is not yet fixed."

"Benedict XVI is traveling in the company of his secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his doctor, his nurse and a religious sister. The Pope emeritus made the decision to travel to his brother in Regensburg at short notice, after consulting with Pope Francis."

Georg Ratzinger is a former conductor of the Regensburger Domspatzen, the cathedral choir of Regensburg. 

On June 29, 2011, he celebrated his 60th anniversary as a priest in Rome together with his brother. Both men were ordained priests in 1951.

This article has been updated to include statements by the president of the German bishops' conference and the Diocese of Regensburg

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