Infallible Christmas gifts: Pope's courier reveals secrets
- The Guardian, Saturday 20 December 2008
If you ever wanted to know what the pope wants for Christmas, Thaddeus Kühnel has the answer: a cosy foot-warmer and a carload of German sweetmeats.
Kühnel, a Bavarian banker nicknamed the "pope's courier", has just delivered his annual load of Christmas goodies to the pontiff, including Christmas trees, cakes, biscuits and a present from his brother.
When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, Kühnel, 62, offered to be at his beck and call whenever he wished to stock up on German delicacies that are hard to come by in Rome, including sausages, strudel and dumpling mix.
Kühnel drove from the pope's home state of Bavaria to the Vatican yesterday to personally deliver this year's boot-load of food, as well as five Christmas trees that were strapped to the roof of his car.
Lebkuchen (honey and spice biscuits), stollen (German Christmas cake), and chocolate were among the treats, Kühnel told German media. Of the trees, which came from the pope's home town, Marktl am Inn, Kühnel said: "One is for the Pope's living room, and two are for private chapels."
Butchers in Marktl am Inn began selling Ratzinger sausages in his honour when he became pope in 2005.
There was also a present from the pope's brother, Georg, 84, a retired priest. Kühnel would not reveal what it was, but said "usually they give each other practical things, like wristwatches and electric foot-warmers".
Kühnel said he had already clocked up around 250,000km (150,000 miles) in his car, delivering goods to the pope that he had personally requested, along with presents from his old friends, staff and distant relatives. "I deliver all the things he misses about Bavaria, including fruit nectar, Bavarian sausages from his favourite restaurant, advent wreaths and German sweets. He has a very sweet tooth," Kühnel said.
"The first thing I brought to Rome, in my car, was a paschal candle, as well as some fruit from Adelholzen and mineral water. He likes the Christmas cookies that women from Bavarian parishes bake at home as well as those made at certain monasteries. He also likes the chocolates made in Aachen."