Oddly Enough

Cat tells life story of his "best friend" the Pope

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Chico the cat describes the life of his “best friend”, Pope Benedict, in an authorised biography for children released this week.

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leads his weekly audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican October 3, 2007. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli

“Dear Children, here you will find a biography that is different to others because it is told by a cat and it is not every day a cat can consider the Holy Father his friend and sit down to write his life story,” the Pope’s personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, says in the foreword.

“Chico and Joseph -- A Cat Recounts the Life of Pope Benedict XVI” is narrated by Chico who took up with the Pope in his native Germany when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The illustrated 44-page book is written by Italian author Jeanne Perego and set mostly in Germany in the years before Benedict was elected in April 2005.

Chico is a real cat who belongs to a German couple in the German city of Pentling, where the Pope lived until he moved to Rome in 1981. The couple are caretakers of the house where Ratzinger had hoped to retire had he not been elected Pope.

Chico tells the story of the life of “my best friend” from his birth in Germany in 1927, through his days as a young man, priest, bishop and cardinal. It ends with his election as Pope on April 19, 2005.

It recounts the Nazi era in Germany when the Pope was a teenager, calling the war years “one of the most dramatic and shameful times in the history of man”.

“At that time, Joseph was forced to do something which was absolutely against his will: john the army and leave for the war. We cats do not make war,” Chico narrates.

Chico recounts how each time then Cardinal Ratzinger returned to Germany for a vacation, the cat would run into his house and sit on his lap as he played the piano.

One Christmas, when the future pope tried to put the cat out of the house “I misbehaved” and scratched him. “He forgave me right away but told me: ‘Don’t do it again”.

In his foreword Ganswein tells the children: “Keep in mind that the cat is writing from his point of view. At the end of the day he is a cat, even if he is a cat who is a friend.”

During the years when he was a cardinal in Rome, the future Pope befriended another cat he found on the street and kept him in his apartment until he was elected pope.

There have been conflicting reports about whether that cat moved into the Vatican with the Pope.