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Pope’s Childhood Letter to Baby Jesus Shows his Faith (4810)

In the 1934 Christmas letter, 7-year-old Joseph Ratzinger asked for a book of Mass prayers, clerical clothing and ‘a heart of Jesus.’

12/25/2012 Comments (10)
Photo courtesy of Ignatius Press

Georg (l) and Joseph Ratzinger during their first Mass processional in Traunstein, Germany, in 1951.

– Photo courtesy of Ignatius Press

MARKTL AM INN, Germany — A Christmas letter that Pope Benedict XVI wrote to Baby Jesus when he was 7 demonstrates his devotion to the Sacred Heart and his desire to be a priest.

The letter was on display this Advent in the village of Marktl am Inn in Bavaria, where he was born.

“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 prayer 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 handwriting called Sütterlinschrift.

The letter, found during the renovation of a house that Joseph Ratzinger occupied when he was a professor in Regensburg, was published on Dec. 18. The message was discovered in the estate of his sister Maria, who kept the letter after the Pope’s house was converted into a small museum dedicated to him.

In Korazym.org’s view, the “letter was uncommon for a 7-year-old, since he did not ask for toys or sweets, which were always in front of the Ratzinger family’s Nativity.”

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 children.

But little Joseph also asked for “green clothing for Mass.”

The Pope and his brother 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, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, gave a few years ago.

Joseph 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 XVI wrote that the volumes he received were “something precious, and I could not dream them to have been more beautiful.”

Along with his letter is another one by 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 Maria, a 13-year-old who wanted a book full of drawings, was also discovered.

According to Korazym.org, “The letters were all on one sheet because the Ratzinger family was not rich.”

Pope Benedict and his family lived in Aschau am Inn, a small town west of Munich, from 1932 to 1937.

“The Pope was very glad to find the letter, and its contents made him smile,” said his secretary, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, when he inaugurated the small museum at the end of summer.

 Added Msgr. Gänswein, “For him, the smell of musk still belongs to Christmas.”

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