WYD: Benedict XVI's family ties to Australia

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Denver

One Australian woman is watching Pope Benedict XVI's arrival in Australia with special interest this week: 83-year-old Erika Kopp of Melbourne is first cousin to the pontiff, and says that while others may address him as "Holy Father" or "Your Holiness," to her he will always be "Joseph."

The pope's given name is Joseph Ratzinger. Kopp was interviewed by Australia's Sunday Herald Sun from her home in Melbourne.

Kopp's father, Benno Riege, was the brother of the pope's mother, Maria. Kopp said that she and the future pope were childhood playmates growing up in Bavaria, when the Riege and Ratzinger families frequently spent holidays together.

"He was a shy boy, very clever, studying all the time. He plays the piano beautifully," she told a reporter.

Kopp said she doesn't expect to see the pope while he's in Australia, since he now has responsibilities "for a billion Catholics."

Kopp added that while she enjoyed her childhood experiences of the Ratzingers, the sentiment wasn't universal.

"Nobody else in the family wanted to visit them because they were so religious," she said.


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