Mourners attend funeral mass for retired pope's brother

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A hearse parks during the funeral service for Priest Georg Ratzinger in front of St. Peter's Cathedral in Regensburg, Germany, Wednesday, July 8, 2020. The elder brother of the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI had died on July 1 at the age of 96 years. (Armin Weigel/dpa via AP)

BERLIN – A memorial mass was held Wednesday in Germany for the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.

Following the Pontifical Requiem at the High Cathedral of St Peter’s in Regensburg, Ratzinger, who died on July 1 at the age of 96, was to be buried at the Bavarian city's Lower Catholic Cemetery.

Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, who led the service, told mourners that Benedict was following the mass online.

“As we reliably know, the pope emeritus is connected with us via livestream,” Voderholzer said.

The 93-year-old emeritus pope made a four-day visit to Regensburg to be with his ailing brother just over a week before Ratzinger’s death.

Toward the end of the funeral mass, a cleric read out a message from Benedict.

Benedict thanked all those who had taken care of his brother in his last weeks and said his “heart was touched” by the many letters he received from believers around the globe after his death.

Talking about his visit to say goodbye to his ailing brother shortly before he died, Benedict said that, “I felt the hour had come to visit him one more time ... I am deeply grateful that the Lord gave me this sign.”

Georg Ratzinger headed the famous Regensburger Domspatzen choir, which traces its history back to the 10th century. The choir toured the world under his leadership, performing for Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II. But after his retirement from the post, Ratzinger apologized for using corporal punishment to discipline boys amid a wider investigation into sexual and physical abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

Georg Ratzinger remained extremely close to his brother throughout his career, expressing dismay when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005 that the stress would affect his health and that they would no longer spend so much time together.

During the service, a portrait of Ratzinger was placed next to the altar and the coffin, which was adorned with yellow and white carnations. Incense burned in a bowl to the right of his picture as Voderholzer led prayers and men clad in black and white gowns sang songs in German and Latin.