Taken from Brisbane Times
THE story of Pope Benedict XVI's life — from his birth in Germany to his election as pontiff — is told through the eyes of a tabby cat called Chico in a children's book to hit Italian bookstores soon.
In Joseph and Chico: A Cat Recounts the Life of Pope Benedict XVI, the orange tabby cat tells readers the Pope is "my dearest friend, a wonderful man with whom I've spent many happy moments".
He recounts the pontiff's childhood and his passion for reading and playing the piano. The book depicts the future Pope's early steps in the Catholic Church from when he entered a seminary in 1939 to his ordination as a priest in 1951.
The feline narrator is inspired by a real orange tabby in Pentling — the German town where the Pope, then Joseph Ratzinger, lived before moving to Rome in 1981 — that belonged to the family next door.
"I can assure you that what you will find in this book … is all true and interesting," the Pope's secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, says in the preface.
The 44-page book touches on the Nazi era, when a teenaged Ratzinger enrolled in the Hitler Youth. "In that period, Joseph was forced to do something that absolutely went against his will: enrol in the army and leave for war," it says.
The Pope eventually deserted without seeing combat and was taken prisoner by US forces before being released several weeks later. The biography ends with Pope John Paul II's funeral and Benedict XVI's election to the pontificate on April 2005.
The Pope is known to like cats. Before he was elected, he looked after stray cats in his old neighbourhood near the Vatican.