Pope's childhood letter to Baby Jesus shows
By Estefania Aguirre
Georg (L) and Joseph Ratzinger during their first Mass
processional in Traunstein, Germany in 1951. Photo
courtesy of Ignatius Press.
Marktl am Inn, Germany, Dec 21, 2012 / 04:16 am
- A Christmas letter that Pope Benedict XVI wrote
to Baby Jesus when he was seven years-old demonstrates his
devotion to the Sacred Heart and his desire to be a priest.
The letter is on display this
Advent in the village of Marktl am Inn in Bavaria, where he was
"Dear Baby Jesus, quickly come
down to earth. You will bring joy to children. Also bring me
joy," he wrote in the 1934 letter, published on the
Church-affiliated Italian website Korazym.org.
"I would like a Volks-Schott
(a Mass prayers book), green clothing for Mass (clerical
clothing) and a heart of Jesus. I will always be good. Greetings
from Joseph Ratzinger," he wrote in German cursive hard writing
The letter, found during the
renovation of a house that Joseph Ratzinger's occupied when he
was a professor in Regensburg, was published on Dec. 18. The
message was discovered in the estate of his sister Mary, who
kept the letter after the Pope's house was converted into a
small museum dedicated to him.
In Korazym’s view, the “letter
was uncommon for a seven-year-old since he did not ask for toys
or sweets, which were always in front of the Ratzinger family's
nativity for his three brothers."
The first thing the Pope
wanted was a Schott, one of the first prayer books with the
missal in German and a parallel text in Latin. At the time there
were two editions in the country, one for adults and one for
But little Joseph also asked
for "green clothing for Mass."
The Pope and his brothers used
to play the "game of the priest," and their mother, a
seamstress, would help them by making clothes similar to those
worn by priests, according to an "Inside the Vatican" interview
his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, gave a few years ago.
He also asked for a heart of
Jesus, referring to an image of the Sacred Heart, which his
family was very devoted to.
His brother noted that "each
year the Nativity would have an extra miniature statue, which
was a great joy … We would go with dad into the woods to gather
moss and twigs of fir."
In his biography, Pope
Benedict the XVI wrote that the volumes he received were
"something precious and I could not dream them to have been more
Along with his letter is
another one by then 10-year-old Georg, who wanted sheet music
for a song and a white chasuble, the outer vestment worn by
priests when they celebrate Mass.
A third letter by "Mary," a
13-year-old who wanted a book full of drawings, was also
According to Korazym, "the
letters were all on one sheet because the Ratzinger family was
Pope Benedict and his family
lived in Aschau am Inn, a small town west of Munich, from 1932
"The Pope was very glad to
find the letter and its contents made him smile," said his
secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, when he inaugurated the
small museum at the end of summer.
"For him, the smell of musk
still belongs to Christmas," he added.
April 19th, 2005: Joseph Ratzinger
is elected to be the 265th pope.
He takes the name Benedict XVI.
Spring 2005: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's most
book, Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith, will be available.
As Pope John Paul II's chief doctrinal officer and
advisor, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was the Prefect of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005. He is the most revered
prelate, scholar, theologian, teacher and Catholic author of our time,
under Pope John Paul II - having spoken on everything from sexual
private revelation and the "crisis of faith," to human rights, roles of
men and women today, marriage, the priesthood, and the future of the
Yet, the depth, candor and humble servitude of this
Cardinal will likely be his lasting hallmark, as he is most engaging in
God and the World (Ignatius, 2002), perhaps even more than in previous
Ratzinger was born in Germany (Bavaria) on Holy
April 16, 1927, and baptized that same day. He has said of his early
"To be the first person baptized with the new water was seen as a
act of Providence. I have always been filled with thanksgiving for
had my life immersed in this way in the Easter Mystery…".
His father worked as a rural policeman, which kept
family continually moving from town to town. In his memoirs about his
life (prior to his appointment as Archbishop of Munich), Milestones:
1927 - 1977 (Ignatius, 1999), Ratzinger depicts his family life as
happy. Family and Church were, for him, inseparable - and he clearly
Hitler and the Third Reich as the enemy to both. He has said of his
"…He saw that a victory of Hitler would not be a victory for Germany
a victory of the Antichrist…".
Following his father's retirement while Joseph
was a teenager, the younger Ratzinger initiated study of classical
and in 1939, entered the minor seminary in Traunstein. In 1943 while
in seminary, he was drafted at age 16 into the German anti-aircraft
(Though he was opposed to the Nazis, he was forced to join at a young
Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry, but a subsequent illness
precluded him from the usual rigors of military duty. As the Allied
drew closer to his post in 1945, he escaped from the Nazis and returned
to his family's home in Traunstein, just as American troops established
their headquarters in the Ratzinger household. As a German soldier, he
was put in a POW camp but was released a few months later at the end of
the War in summer 1945. He re-entered the seminary, along with his
Georg, in November of that year.
Ratzinger and his brother Georg were ordained to the
on June 29, 1951, in the Cathedral of Freising on the Feast of Saints
He received his doctorate in theology in 1953 from
University of Munich. Beginning in 1959, he taught theology at the
Ratzinger became more widely known when, during the
Vatican Council and at the age of 35, he was appointed chief
advisor for the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings, for the
four-year duration of the Council. After continuing his teaching at
German universities, Ratzinger was appointed by Pope Paul VI in March
as Archbishop of Munich and Freising. In June 1977, he was elevated to
Pope John Paul II summoned Cardinal Ratzinger to
in November 1981, and named him Prefect of the Congregation for the
of the Faith, President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and
of the International Theological Commission. He has published several
books which clarify faith practice and Catholic doctrine for today's
and Christian: The Ratzinger Report (1985); Salt of the Earth (1996);
Spirit of the Liturgy (2000); God and the World (2002), and the
published God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life (2003).
Additionally, he worked with some 40 collaborators
over a thousand bishops to produce the 900+ page Catechism of the
Ratzinger worked more closely with Pope John Paul II
perhaps anyone else. On Tuesdays, Ratzinger and members of the
would meet with the Pope for an hour-and-a-half lunch meeting. Then
would meet alone with the late Pope every Friday evening to discuss
problems facing the Church and the deliberations of the Congregation.
the Pope decides," Ratzinger said about those meetings.
Ratzinger wielded spiritual influence and worldwide
even from those who didn't hold to the Catholic faith. As papal
for John Paul II, George Weigel, has said, "…not even his [Ratzinger's]
implacable enemies ever questioned Joseph Ratzinger's erudition: his
knowledge of theology; his command of biblical, patristic, scholastic,
and contemporary sources; his elegance as a thinker and writer."
In a recent interview with ZENIT news service,
Press president Mark Brumley said, "Although Ratzinger the prefect is
from Ratzinger the theologian, we are blessed in Pope Benedict XVI with
a theologian and pastor who has thought and prayed long and hard about
Jesus Christ, the Church and her mission to the world. He will, I
continue the twofold task of Vatican II -- renewing the inner life of
Church and reinvigorating the Church's mission in the world. He is
to a renewal of biblical studies and a deepening of ordinary Catholics'
appreciation of and participation in the sacred liturgy.
"He staunchly proclaims the universal call to
of Vatican II," added Brumley. "He understands the importance of
among Christians and dialogue with world religions and seekers, while
upholds the integrity of Catholic faith and insists on a renewed
drive to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world."
Books by Benedict XVI/Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
by Ignatius Press:
- Behold the Pierced One
- Called to Communion
- Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day
of the Year
- Daughter Zion
- The Feast of Faith
- God and the World
- God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life
- Gospel, Catechism and Catechesis
- Introduction to Christianity
- Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
- Many Religions, One Covenant
- Meaning of Christian Brotherhood
- Milestones: 1927-1977
- Nature and Mission of Theology
- Principles of Christian Morality (co-author)
- Principles of Catholic Theology
- The Ratzinger Report
- Salt of the Earth
- The Spirit of the Liturgy
- Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World
Chronology of Events in the Life of Joseph
Pope Benedict XVI
1927 Ratzinger is born on April 16, Holy
in Marktl am Inn, and is baptized the same day.
Reflecting on this experience in his memoirs, he
To be the first person baptized with the new
was seen as a significant act of Providence. I have always been filled
with thanksgiving for having had my life immersed in this way in the
Mystery... the more I reflect on it, the more this seems fitting for
nature of our human life: we are still waiting for Easter; we are not
standing in the full light but walking toward it full of trust. [p. 8,
Ratzinger admits it is not easy to say what his
is. As a rural policeman, his father was transferred frequently, and
family was continually on the road.
1929 Ratzinger's family moves to Tittmoning, a
town on the Salzach River, on the Austrian border.
1932 December: Due to his father's outspoken
of the Nazis, Ratzinger's family is forced to relocate to Auschau am
at the foot of the Alps.
1937 Ratzinger's father retires and his family moves
Hufschlag, outside the city of Traunstein, where Josef would spend most
of his years as a teenager. Here he begins classes at the local
for classical languages, where he studies Latin and Greek.
1939 Ratzinger enters the minor seminary in
the initial step of his ecclesiastical career.
1943 Ratzinger, along with the rest of his seminary
is drafted into the Flak [anti-aircraft corps]. He is still allowed to
attend classes at the Maximilians-Gymnasium in Munich three days a week.
1944 September: Having reached military age,
is released from the Flak and returns home, only to be drafted into
detail under the infamous Austrian Legion ("fanatical ideologues who
us without respite").
November: Ratzinger undergoes basic training with
the German infantry. Due to illness he finds himself exempt from most
the rigors of military duty.
1945 Spring (end of April or beginning of May): As
Allied front draws closer, Ratzinger deserts the army and heads home to
Traunstein. When the Americans finally arrive at his village, they
to establish their headquarters in the Ratzinger house. Josef is
as a German soldier and incarcerated in a POW camp.
June 19: Ratzinger is released and returns home
to Traunstein, followed by his brother Georg in July.
November: Ratzinger and his brother Georg
1947 Ratzinger enters the Herzogliches Georgianum, a
institute associated with the University of Munich.
1951 June 29: Georg and Josef Ratzinger are ordained
the priesthood by Cardinal Faulhaber, in the Cathedral at Freising, on
the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
1953 July: Ratzinger receives his doctorate in
from the University of Munich. In connection with his doctoral studies
he produces his first important work: Volk und Haus Gottes in Augustins
Lehre von der Kirche [People and House of God in Augustine's doctrine
Ratzinger devotes his Habilitationsschrift --
contribution to original research in order to teach at the university
-- to Bonaventure's theology of history and revelation.
1959 April 15: Ratzinger begins lectures as full
(one holding a chair) of fundamental theology at the University of Bonn.
August 23: Ratzinger's father passes away.
1962 - 1965 Ratzinger is present during all four
of the Second Vatican Council as a peritus, or chief theological
to Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne, Germany.
1963 Ratzinger moves to the University of
Dec. 16: Ratzinger's mother passes away.
1966 Ratzinger takes a second chair in dogmatic
at the University of Tübingen. His appointment is vigorously
and secured by fellow professor Hans Küng. Ratzinger had initially
met Küng in
1957 at a congress of dogmatic theologians in
after recently reviewing Küng's doctoral work on Karl Barth. Says
I had many questions to ask of this book
although its theological style was not my own, I had read it with
and gained respect for its author, whose winning openness and
I quite liked. A good personal relationship was thus established, even
if soon after . . . a rather serious argument began between us about
theology of the council. [Milestones, p. 135]
1968 A wave of student uprisings sweeps across
and Marxism quickly becomes the dominant intellectual system at
indoctrinating not only his students but many of the faculty as well.
the subordination of religion to Marxist political ideology, Ratzinger
There was an instrumentalization by ideologies that
tyrannical, brutal, and cruel. That experience made it clear to me that
the abuse of faith had to be resisted precisely if one wanted to uphold
the will of the Council [Salt of the Earth].
1969 Scandalized by his encounter with radical
at Tübingen, Ratzinger moves back to Bavaria to take a teaching
at the University of Regensburg. He eventually becomes dean and vice
and later, theological advisor to the German bishops.
1972 Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henry
Lubac and others launch the Catholic theological journal Communio, a
review of Catholic theology and culture.
1977 On March 24, Ratzinger is named
of Munich and Freising. He is urged by his confessor to accept the
and chooses as his episcopal motto the phrase from the third letter of
John, "Co-Worker of the Truth," reasoning:
For one, it seemed to be the connection
between my previous task as teacher and my new mission. Despite all the
differences in modality, what is involved was and remains the same: to
follow truth, to be at its service. And because in today's world the
of truth has all but disappeared, because truth appears too great for
and yet everything falls apart if there is no truth. [Milestones, p.
He is ordained May 28.
June 27 - Ratzinger is elevated to Cardinal of
Munich by Pope Paul VI.
1980 Ratzinger is named by Pope John Paul II
chair the special Synod on the Laity. Shortly after, the pope asks him
to head the Congregation for Catholic Education. Ratzinger declines,
he shouldn't leave his post in Munich too soon.
1981 On November 25, Ratzinger accepts Pope
Paul II's invitation to take over as Prefect for the Congregation for
Doctrine of the Faith.
1981 On November 25, Ratzinger accepts Pope
Paul II's invitation to take over as Prefect for the Congregation for
Doctrine of the Faith.
1998 On November 6, Ratzinger is elected vice
of the College of Cardinals.
2002 On November 30, The Holy Father, Pope
Paul II, approved his election, by the order of cardinal bishops, as
of the College of Cardinals.
2005 On April 19, Cardinal Ratzinger was
Bishop of Rome, and took the name Benedict XVI.
Includes Writings of Benedict XVI and Joseph
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican
House henceforth will officially oversee the copyright of the writings
of the Pope and the magisterial works of the Holy See.
The publishing house will also assume similar
over the books and documents written by Joseph Ratzinger, the Holy See
For his part, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican
of state, today issued a decree in which he entrusted the Vatican
House with "the exercise and protection, in perpetuity and for the
world, of all the moral rights of author and of all the exclusive
to economic utilization, without any exception or exclusion, of all the
acts and documents with which the Holy Father exercises his own
In carrying out this commission, clarified the
the director of the Vatican Publishing House, at present Salesian
Claudio Rossini, "acts in the name and interest of the Holy See," being
able to take recourse even to courts in the case of violation of rights.
Moreover, Cardinal Sodano issued a statement saying
the "Holy Father has entrusted the Vatican Publishing House with the
and protection of the copyright and of all exclusive rights to economic
utilization of the acts, works and writings written by him prior to his
elevation to the Chair of Peter."
The statement adds that, "without prejudicing the
acquired by third parties concerning contracts already concluded with
author, from now on the Vatican Publishing House is also entrusted with
the exercise and protection of the copyright concerning contracts still
55 books in German
In statements to ZENIT, Father Rossini explained
shortly after being elected Pope, John Paul II also entrusted to the
Publishing House the rights to the works he wrote as Karol Wojtyla.
"The difference is that, with Cardinal Ratzinger, we
faced with a very large quantity of books," the priest said. "A
house in Germany told me that there are more or less 55 in German,
in Italian, scattered in bookstores, there are around 43 volumes."
According to the new decree and the new statement,
wishes to publish books or anthologies of Ratzinger's or Benedict XVI's
texts will have to ask permission from the director of the Vatican
Father Rossini said that part of the royalties of
XVI's and Ratzinger's works, as was the case with John Paul II, are
to charitable works.
The Vatican Publishing House can be contacted at
Joseph Ratzinger was born at Marktl am Inn, Diocese
Passau (Germany) on 16 April 1927 (Holy Saturday) and was baptised on
same day. His father, a policeman, belonged to an old family of farmers
from Lower Bavaria of modest economic resources. His mother was the
of artisans from Rimsting on the shore of Lake Chiem, and before
she worked as a cook in a number of hotels.
He spent his childhood and adolescence in
a small village near the Austrian border, thirty kilometres from
In this environment, which he himself has defined as "Mozartian", he
his Christian, cultural and human formation.
His youthful years were not easy. His faith and the
received at home prepared him for the harsh experience of those years
which the Nazi regime pursued a hostile attitude towards the Catholic
The young Joseph saw how some Nazis beat the Parish Priest before the
It was precisely during that complex situation that
discovered the beauty and truth of faith in Christ; fundamental for
was his family’s attitude, who always gave a clear witness of goodness
and hope, rooted in a convinced attachment to the Church.
During the last months of the war he was enrolled in
auxiliary anti-aircraft corps.
From 1946 to 1951 he studied philosophy and theology
the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and at the
He received his priestly ordination on 29 June 1951.
A year later he began teaching at the Higher School
In 1953 he obtained his doctorate in theology with a
entitled "People and House of God in St Augustine’s Doctrine of the
Four years later, under the direction of the
professor of fundamental theology Gottlieb Söhngen, he qualified
University teaching with a dissertation on: "The Theology of History in
After lecturing on dogmatic and fundamental theology
the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology in Freising, he went on to
teach at Bonn, from 1959 to1963; at Münster from 1963 to 1966 and
at Tübingen from 1966 to 1969. During this last year he held the
of dogmatics and history of dogma at the University of Regensburg,
he was also Vice-President of the University.
From 1962 to 1965 he made a notable contribution to
II as an "expert"; being present at the Council as theological advisor
of Cardinal Joseph Frings, Archbishop of Cologne.
His intense scientific activity led him to important
at the service of the German Bishops’ Conference and the International
In 1972 together with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri
Lubac and other important theologians, he initiated the theological
On 25 March 1977 Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop
Munich and Freising. On 28 May of the same year he received episcopal
He was the first Diocesan priest for 80 years to take on the pastoral
of the great Bavarian Archdiocese. He chose as his episcopal motto:
of the truth". He himself explained why: "On the one hand I saw it as
relation between my previous task as professor and my new mission. In
of different approaches, what was involved, and continued to be so, was
following the truth and being at its service. On the other hand I chose
that motto because in today’s world the theme of truth is omitted
entirely, as something too great for man, and yet everything collapses
if truth is missing".
Paul VI made him a Cardinal with the priestly title
"Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino", during the Consistory of 27
of the same year.
In 1978 he took part in the Conclave of 25 and 26
which elected John Paul I, who named him his Special Envoy to the III
Mariological Congress, celebrated in Guayaquil (Ecuador) from 16 to 24
September. In the month of October of the same year he took part in the
Conclave that elected Pope John Paul II.
He was Relator of the V Ordinary General Assembly of
Synod of Bishops which took place in 1980 on the theme: "Mission of the
Christian Family in the world of today", and was Delegate President of
the VI Ordinary General Assembly of 1983 on "Reconciliation and Penance
in the mission of the Church".
John Paul II named him Prefect of the Congregation
the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Pontifical Biblical
and of the International Theological Commission on 25 November 1981. On
15 February 1982 he resigned the pastoral governance of the Archdiocese
of Munich and Freising. The Holy Father elevated him to the Order of
assigning to him the Suburbicarian See of Velletri-Segni on 5 April
He was President of the Preparatory Commission for
Catechism of the Catholic Church, which after six years of work
presented the new Catechism to the Holy Father.
On 6 November 1998 the Holy Father approved the
of Cardinal Ratzinger as Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals,
by the Cardinals of the Order of Bishops. On 30 November 2002 he
his election as Dean; together with this office he was entrusted with
Suburbicarian See of Ostia.
In 1999 he was Special Papal Envoy for the
of the XII Centenary of the foundation of the Diocese of Paderborn,
which took place on 3 January.
Since 13 November 2000 he has been an Honorary
of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
In the Roman Curia he has been a member of the
of the Secretariat of State for Relations with States; of the
for the Oriental Churches, for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the
Sacraments, for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for
Education, for Clergy and for the Causes of the Saints; of the
Councils for Promoting Christian Unity, and for Culture; of the Supreme
Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and of the Pontifical Commissions
for Latin America, "Ecclesia Dei", for the Authentic Interpretation of
the Code of Canon Law, and for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law of
the Oriental Churches.
Among his many publications special mention should
made of his "Introduction to Christianity", a compilation of University
lectures on the Apostolic Creed published in 1968; "Dogma and
(1973) an anthology of essays, sermons and reflections dedicated to
His address to the Catholic Academy of Bavaria on
I am still in the Church" had a wide resonance; in it he stated with
usual clarity: "one can only be a Christian in the Church, not beside
His many publications are spread out over a number
years and constitute a point of reference for many people specially for
those interested in entering deeper into the study of theology. In 1985
he published his interview-book on the situation of the faith (The
Report) and in 1996 "Salt of the Earth". On the occasion of his 70th
the volume "At the School of Truth" was published, containing articles
by several authors on different aspects of his personality and
He has received numerous "Honoris Causa" Doctorates,
1984 from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota; in 1986
the Catholic University of Lima; in 1987 from the Catholic University
Eichstätt; in 1988 from the Catholic University of Lublin; in 1998
from the University of Navarre; in 1999 from the LUMSA (Libera
Maria Santissima Assunta) of Rome and in 2000 from the Faculty of
of the University of Wroc?aw in Poland.
Files reveal Stasi spied on Joseph Ratzinger. A German Sunday
newspaper has published archive material on how East Germany’s
Communist secret police, the Stasi, spied on Joseph Ratzinger three
decades before he become Pope Benedict XVI.
“Long before his nomination as prefect of the Vatican’s
Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, security ministry agents kept
watch on him,” Bild am Sonntag reported. “One of them later wrote with
concern that, as Congregation prefect, he would have an influence on
the growth of anti-Communist attitudes in the Church, especially in
The tabloid said the Stasi had begun regular surveillance of
the then Professor Joseph Ratzinger from his April 1974 visit to East
Germany to lecture to theology students at Erfurt, and had regarded him
after his June 1977 appointment as a cardinal as “the most decided
opponent of Communism in the Vatican”. It added that the Pope had given
his consent to publishing the reports.
The Stasi employed 97,000 full-time agents and 173,000
informers from its HQ in Berlin’s Normannenstrasse and 14 regional
offices, equivalent to one agent for every six East German citizens.
The archives suggested that Ratzinger had been “emotionally shocked”
when leftist students disrupted his theology lectures at
Tüübingen in 1966-9, an experience which had turned him from
a “church reformer” into a “leading conservative theologian”.