Cat writes biography of Pope Benedict

 A new authorised biography of the Holy Father, aimed at younger readers, was published yesterday. Written by Chico, a ginger tom, with help from children's author Jeanne Perego, the book recounts his memories of the young Joseph Ratzinger, growing up in a Bavarian family in Nazi Germany.

It follows his early years as a priest and ends with his election as leader of the Church in April 2005.

In his introduction to 'Joseph and Chico' Father Georg Gänswein, Benedict's private secretary, writes that "everything in the book is true and interesting".

He says: "Here, dear children, you will find a different sort of biography, because it is told by a cat, and it does not happen every day that a cat considers the Holy Father to be his friend. They have known each other for a long time."

He added: "The Pope of course loves cats and all animals because they are creatures of God, and often, like Chico, they have lessons for us that are worth learning."

The nine-year-old cat lives next door to his holiday home in the Bavarian village of Panting, and used to spend time with the then Josef Ratzinger as he read or played the piano. Since his friend became Pope, the pair have probably not met.

The Pope's love for cats is well known. When he was a cardinal he used to feed the strays that congregated outside his apartment. Many previous popes have also been animal lovers: Pope Leo XII had a dog and a cat, while Pius XII kept caged birds and a goldfish called Gretchen.

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