Recollections from Pope's former housekeeper

 Sister Agapita, of the Sisters of Mercy convent in Munich, was a housekeeper to Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI. She was one of 50 people who received Communion from the Pope during his recent Mass at Munich-Riem. Sr Agapita reminisced with journalist Tess Crebbin.

"We spent many joyful moments together," she said by phone. "It was much more than just your average housekeeper-Cardinal relationship, because he really involved us in his daily life and we also used to pray together."

She also told David Costanzo, a city reporter for the TZ newspaper, of her nervousness prior to her first meeting with Joseph Ratzinger. "I was sent to look after his household in 1972 at the archdiocese," she said, "and was very much in awe of him and my new position. So I hoped he was not going to be there when I first arrived, to give me some time to adjust to the new situation and learn everything around the household. I was lucky, because for the first week of my taking up my new post, he was away at a Bishop's conference and so I had a chance to familiarize myself with my new tasks. But I need not have worried, because he was a very humble person who never made any of his staff feel inferior. On the contrary, he always made us feel like we were important to him and that we were all one big family in the face of the Lord."

Sister Agapita also talked about her memories of playing the German board game "Mensch aergere Dich nicht" with the Pope. "This was one of his favourite games," she said, "and it means, translated, "don't get annoyed" because you can be in the process of winning and at the last moment be booted out by your opponent. When playing this game, I found out that Cardinal Ratzinger had a wonderful sense of humour and we laughed a lot together."

Sister Agapita related how, when the Pope John Paul II was shot, Cardinal Ratzinger immediately " gathered all of us around to say the rosary together with him for the Pope's recovery. I thought it was really significant that he had asked his staff to join him in prayer, fostering among us the feeling of community and union."

Sister Agapita was one of three nuns who looked after the household of Cardinal Ratzinger until he was called to Rome. She says that she was impressed by the dignity and faith that radiated from him.

first posted MUNICH - 21 September 2006 - 436 words

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