Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Vatican to Lourdes Pool: "The Spring is Not For You"

Next week, Papa Ratzi will emerge from his two-month hiatus for a four-day trip to France.

Beyond its first day of official pleasantries in Paris -- including a cultural gathering, meeting with the Jewish community and Vespers in Notre-Dame Cathedral -- the lion's share of B16's long weekend in the place sometimes called the church's "eldest daughter" will belong to Lourdes, where the 150th anniversary of global Catholicism's best-known shrine is being marked with a yearlong celebration.

Yet while most of the world knows the place for the miraculous spring that first bubbled during the original 1858 apparitions (and to which countless healings have been attributed), the press pool traveling with the Pope has already been warned to not even try bringing any back to Rome, citing security precautions; in an advisory issued last week, the Holy See Press Office added that any fluids found in carry-on luggage bound for the papal plane would be confiscated.

On his return home, the pontiff will return to his summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, where he'll recharge again 'til month's end. Back in Rome, the first major event awaiting him is the 5-26 October Synod of Bishops slated to focus on "the Word of God in the Life of the Church."

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Speaking of Castel -- for which the reigning Pope has made no effort to hide his soft spot -- the town surrounding the residence in the Alban Hills recently conferred an honorary citizenship on Benedict's brother, Msgr Georg Ratzinger, a frequent houseguest both at the exurban villa and at the Apostolic Palace, where he's got his own room. (The two are shown below during July's papal getaway at the Bressanone seminary.)

Three years older than his brother, the retired director of the Regensburg Domspatzen -- the Bavarian mecca's famed cathedral choir -- might've been the guest of honor at the civil ceremony in Castel's Swiss Room, but the town's more prominent vacationer was still asked to offer a few words in his sibling's honor.

Below, an English translation of the impromptu PopeText:
Your Eminences, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, dear friends,

It's a cause of deep joy for me that my brother now joins the illustrious group of this beautiful city's honorary citizens. Thus Castel Gandolfo, if it's possible, now becomes even dearer, even closer to my heart. So, from me as well, thank you for this gesture.

From the beginning of my life my brother has always been for me not only a companion, but also a dependable guide. He's been a point of orientation for me, a reference of clarity, He's always shown me the road best taken, even in difficult situations.

Mr Mayor, your beautiful words made me recall many years ago in Regensburg, where the beautiful music that, Sunday after Sunday, could be heard in the cathedral was really a comfort for me, a consolation, an intimate joy, a reflection of the beauty of God.

My brother spoke to the fact that in the time since, we've come to the final step of our lives, old age. Our days of living become fewer and fewer with time. But even in this stage my brother helps me to accept the weight of each day with serenity, humility and with courage. I thank him.
When he's not at the papal residences or his own apartment in Regensburg, the Papstbruder spends his downtime at his brother's "true home" -- the simple house on a suburban cul-de-sac that, with an eye to their retirements, Joseph Ratzinger built for himself and Don Georg in the 1970s, when Benedict was still a professor and administrator at the University of Regensburg.

Decorated with porcelain cats and with an ample garden outside, the logistics of the papacy have made it impossible for the homeowner to return there since his election but for a fleeting few minutes on his Bavarian "homecoming" tour in October 2006.

PHOTOS: Reuters(2)