July 7, 2020 / 1:13 PM / a month ago

Mourners pay respects to ex-Pope's brother Georg Ratzinger

FILE PHOTO: Pope Benedict XVI strolls in a garden with his brother Bishop Georg Ratzinger during his annual holiday in Bressanone, northern Italy July 31, 2008. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - The brother of former Pope Benedict XVI lay in state in his hometown of Regensburg, Germany on Tuesday, visited by socially-distanced mourners wanting to pay respects to the cleric and choirmaster, who died last week at the age of 96.

Mourners, wearing facial protection to guard against spreading the coronavirus, filed into St. Johann’s Church past the coffin of Georg Ratzinger, who for many years led the city cathedral’s famed Domspatzen boys’ choir.

In his later years, Ratzinger faced criticism for his leadership of the choir after allegations surfaced of children having been abused by other staff there. Ratzinger always denied knowledge of the abuse.

“I have never sung under a greater choir master,” said Reinhard Kreuzinger, a former chorister. “He took the Domspatzen into the world. Whatever he’s accused of - I can’t really comprehend that because he was a child of his time.”

Georg and Benedict entered a seminary where they both trained to be priests at the same time in January 1946, after both serving in the army before Nazi Germany’s defeat at the end of World War Two.

The Pope Emeritus paid his brother a final visit in late June, leaving Italy for the first time in seven years.

Even following Benedict’s elevation to the papacy in 2005, they remained in close touch, with Georg telling the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that his brother would regularly call him on a private phone whose number only the Pontiff knew.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt, editing by Ed Osmond

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