Georg Ratzinger

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Georg Ratzinger

Ordination29 June 1951
by Michael von Faulhaber
Personal details
Born (1924-01-15) 15 January 1924 (age 95)
Pleiskirchen, Germany
DenominationRoman Catholic
ResidenceRegensburg, Germany
ParentsJoseph Ratzinger, Sr.; Maria Peintner

Georg Ratzinger PA (born 15 January 1924) is a German Catholic priest and musician, known for his work as the conductor of the Regensburger Domspatzen, the cathedral choir of Regensburg, Germany. He is the elder brother of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger). His grand-uncle was the German politician Georg Ratzinger.

Early life and military service[edit]

Ratzinger was born in Pleiskirchen, Bavaria to Joseph Ratzinger, a police officer, and Maria Ratzinger, née Peintner. He has a younger brother, Joseph, who later reigned as Pope Benedict XVI from 2005 to 2013, and a sister, Maria. Early in his life he showed musical talent, playing the church organ already at the age of 11. In 1935 he entered the minor seminary in Traunstein and had professional musical instruction there. In 1941 he encountered for the first time the choir of the Regensburger Domspatzen, which he would later direct, when they performed in Salzburg on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Mozart's death.

In summer 1942 Georg Ratzinger was drafted to the Reichsarbeitsdienst to serve Nazi Germany in World War II, and the same autumn to the German Wehrmacht. In 1944 he was wounded in battle in Italy. At the end of the war, he was a prisoner of war of the U.S. Army in the vicinity of Naples, but was released, and arrived at home in July 1945.

Education and ordination[edit]

In January 1946, he and his brother Joseph (later Pope Benedict XVI) entered the seminary of the archdiocese of Munich and Freising to study for the priesthood. At the same time he pursued his musical studies. Georg and Joseph were ordained priests in 1951 by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber. Afterwards, Georg studied Church music in Munich, while serving in different priestly functions for the diocese.

Domspatzen directorship[edit]

He completed his studies in 1957 and became chorus director in his home parish in Traunstein. In February 1964 he was made musical director, Domkapellmeister, at St. Peters Cathedral in Regensburg, thereby becoming the chorus master of the Cathedral Choir, the Regensburger Domspatzen. As director of this boys' and men's choir, Ratzinger oversaw the recording of numerous pieces (e.g. J. S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio and motets, H. Schütz: Psalmen Davids), concert tours (among others to the U.S., Scandinavia, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Ireland, Poland, Hungary, and the Vatican; and a tour of Germany every year), and the liturgical activities of the choir. In 1976 the choir celebrated its 1,000th anniversary.

In 1977 Ratzinger conducted the Domspatzen at his brother Joseph's consecration as Archbishop of Munich and Freising. They sang in honor of Queen Elizabeth II at her state visit in 1978, and at Pope John Paul II's visit to Munich in 1980; they also gave a concert for the state guests at the NATO summit in 1982 under the auspices of then German president Karl Carstens.

In 2010 Ratzinger indicated he would be prepared to testify to aid investigations into claims of abuse at the Regensburger Domspatzen choir in Germany.[1] The Regensburg Diocese said that a former singer came forward with allegations of sexual abuse in the early 1960s, predating Ratzinger's tenure from 1964–1994.Der Spiegel has reported that therapists in the region are treating several alleged victims from the choir.

Allegations of sexual and physical abuse under his directorship[edit]

A man who lived in the choir-linked boarding school until 1967 has contended that "a sophisticated system of sadistic punishments in connection with sexual lust" had been installed there. Der Spiegel quoted the man, a composer Franz Wittenbrink, as saying it would be inexplicable that the pope's brother did not know anything about it.[2] Ratzinger has admitted slapping pupils in the face.[3] He commented: "At the start, I also slapped people in the face, but I always had a bad conscience". He claims to have been relieved when corporal punishment was forbidden in 1980. Ratzinger has denied any knowledge of sexual abuse.[3] A Vatican spokesperson stated that the allegations on sexual abuse, particularly the Regensburg case, are a campaign aimed against the pope and the Roman Catholic Church comparable to Nazi-propaganda.[4] A lawyer commissioned by the choir to look into the accusations concluded that over 200 young singers were abused to various degrees, with at least 40 of the cases involving sexual violence, and that he must assume that Ratzinger had known.[5] A report in 2017 faulted Ratzinger "in particular for 'looking away' or for failing to intervene" and also stated that, "with a high degree of plausibility", between the years 1945 and 1992, 547 boys were victims of physical or sexual abuse, or both.[6][7]

Later life[edit]

Ratzinger retired from his position as director of the choir in 1994 and has been a canon in Regensburg since 25 January 2009. In 2005, during a visit to his brother in Rome, symptoms of heart failure and arrhythmia led to a brief admission at the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic.

On 29 June 2011 Ratzinger celebrated sixty years as a priest and gave an interview on the topic, during which he noted that during the ordination, "My brother was the second to youngest, though there were some who were older." He also noted that "I have the stole and the cassock from that day".[8] He celebrated his 90th birthday (15 January 2014) with Benedict XVI in the Vatican.[9] His birthday was organized by Michael Hesemann and the guests included American journalist Lauren Green, who played the piano, violinist Baptiste Pawlik, English-Argentinian writer Molly Maria Hamilton Baillie,[10] Georg Gänswein and Gerhard Ludwig Müller. The celebrations included personal letter written by Maria Elena Bergoglio to Ratzinger.[11]

Honours and awards[edit]


  1. ^ German Clergy Scandal Reaches the Pope's Family
  2. ^ Vorwürfe gegen Kirche: Regensburger Domspatzen durch Missbrauch traumatisiert – SPIEGEL ONLINE – Nachrichten – Panorama
  3. ^ a b Dutch church orders inquiry into sex abuse allegations, BBC
  4. ^ "Medien zu Missbrauchsskandal Bischof von Regensburg zieht NS-Vergleich]". Focus (in German). 21 March 2010.
  5. ^ Over 200 Members of German Choir Were Abused, Investigator Says, NY Times
  6. ^ Domspatzen choir sexual abuse,
  7. ^ Abschlussbericht Domspatzen Vorfälle von Gewaltausübung an Schutzbefohlenen bei den Regensburger Domspatzen, Untersuchungsbericht, Ulrich Weber/Johannes Baumeister, original report in German, 18 July 2017.
  8. ^ Georg Ratzinger also marks 90th birthday Archived 7 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Monsignor Ratzinger Celebrates 90th Birthday with Pope Emeritus,, 17 January 2014
  10. ^ Catholic news, 17 January 2014,
  11. ^ Los noventa anos de monsenor Ratzinger Osservatore Romano
  12. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 1630. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  13. ^ "ONORIFICENZE" (in Italian). Italian Presidency. Archived from the original on 10 January 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2013.

External links[edit]