VATICAN CITY (AP) — Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI traveled to his native Germany Thursday to be by his brother’s sickbed, the Vatican said Thursday.
Benedict, 93, arrived in Regensburg, Germany where his 96-year-old brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, lives and was the long-time choirmaster. Benedict “will spend the necessary time” there, the Vatican said in a statement.
Benedict was accompanied by his long-time personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, a doctor, a nurse, a private housekeeper and the deputy commander of the Vatican’s gendarmerie corps.
‘’It is perhaps the last time that the two brothers, Georg and Joseph Ratzinger, will see each other in this world,” Regensburg diocese spokesman Clemens Neck said, using Benedict’s name before he became pope.
The diocese said that Benedict landed in Munich at 11:45 a.m., and was greeted by Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, who accompanied the retired pope to Regensburg. Benedict will stay at the Regensburg seminary.
The German Bishops Conference welcomed Benedict in a statement earlier Thursday, saying ″we are happy that he has come to his homeland, where he belonged for some years to our bishops conference, even if the occasion is sad.
″The emeritus pope will be close to his brother, whose health condition has worsened,″ the bishop’s conference said. ″We wish the (emeritus) pope a good stay in Germany, and the necessary quiet to care for his brother in private.″
The Regensburg diocese invited anyone who wanted to express their closeness to the brothers to do so with ‘’silent prayer.”
The retired pope himself is quite frail, and while generally living a secluded retirement in a Vatican retreat house, he occasionally has appeared in public, and Pope Francis has visited him at times.
The two brothers are extremely close and share a lifelong passion for classical music.
Benedict in 2013 became the first pope in 600 years to resign, and has been living alongside his successor, Francis, at the Vatican. This is Benedict’s first trip out of the country since his papacy ended.
Benedict last visited Regensburg, spending time with his brother, while pope, in 2006. Georg has been a frequent visitor to the Vatican, where Joseph Ratzinger had a long, prominent career before becoming pope.
The times he saw his brother during papal retirement included the 2017 celebration of Benedict’s 90th birthday, when he and other Bavarian well-wishers toasted his brother with large steins of beer. In April 2012, in the last full year Benedict was pope, Georg attended a concert with his brother at the Vatican.
Moulson contributed from Berlin.