Funeral planned Wednesday for retired pope's elder brother

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BERLIN (AP) — A funeral is to be held in Germany next week for the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI at the age of 96.

The Diocese of Regensburg said Thursday that Ratzinger will be laid to rest in the Bavarian city's Catholic cemetery Wednesday afternoon following a service led by Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer.

The acclaimed boys’ choir Ratzinger headed for several decades will stage a farewell concert Sunday. The public is invited to attend prayers in Regensburg Cathedral on Monday evening and to sign a book of condolences Tuesday.

The Regensburger Domspatzen choir, which traces its history back to the 10th century, toured the world under Ratzinger's leadership, performing for Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II. But after his retirement from the post, Ratzinger apologized for using corporal punishment to discipline boys amid a wider investigation into sexual and physical abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

Georg Ratzinger remained extremely close to his brother throughout his career, expressing dismay when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005 that the stress would affect his health and that they would no longer spend so much time together.

Benedict made a four-day visit to Regensburg to be with his ailing brother just over a week before Ratzinger's death. The diocese said it wasn’t likely the retired pope, who is 93, would be able to make the trip from Italy again to attend the funeral.

Pope Francis on Thursday sent a personal note of condolences to Benedict, thanking his predecessor for having informed him about the death of his “beloved brother.”

Francis assured Benedict of his prayers both for his brother and for Benedict himself.

"I want to renew my deepest condolences and spiritual proximity in this moment of pain,” wrote Francis, who succeeded Benedict after his retirement in 2013.

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