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Fr Joseph Ratzinger, a priest amidst the nazi lie

2009-06-09

Those first impressions led to playing with the idea of becoming priest.

Monsignor Georg Ratzinger
Pope’s brother

"We had a small house altar, which our uncle had made for us. We also had paraments, albs that is, and tunicals. The  seamstress who sowed the dresses for my mother and my sister, sewed these paraments, practically tunicals  for us. It was great fun. And we paid attention to how it is done in church, to be able to re-enact it as accurately as possible."

The age of fun and games was over and soon the time came for big decisions. In 1939, at the age of only 12, Joseph Ratzinger entered the Freising seminary.

There he lived through the most difficult years of World War II. One of the consequences of the war was the interruption of the school year.

In 1943, 16-year-old Joseph was called up to duty, like all his fellow classmates and friends, and assigned tasks in Munich’s anti-aircraft defense.

One night, an SS official woke everyone up in the barracks where the soldiers were sleeping. Playing on their fear and fatigue, the official tried to convince them to enroll as volunteers in the SS. Joseph said no because he wanted to become a priest. The official humiliated and made fun of him.

Monsignor Thomas Frauenlob
Former dean, Minor Seminary, Traunstein, Germany

"He always said that his calling to become priest came very early. But it was in this confrontation with National Socialism, this huge lie which took hold, that he moved to becoming a priest."

When we returned to Freising after the war in January 1946, his seminary was in ruins. That’s why the first task for future priests was to rebuild it.

Monsignor Georg Ratzinger
Pope’s brother

"Rebuild is saying too much. It was very seriously damaged, run-down and  dirty. But there my brother and I helped rebuild it."

They studied hard in the seminary in Freising and later at the University of Munich until June 29, 1951, when Cardinal Faulhaber, the same man that so impressed Ratzinger as a child, ordained him a priest in the cathedral of Freising.

It was an unforgettable moment that Joseph Ratzinger remembers as “the most important day of his life.”

JMB