Francis accuses Benedict XVI's secretary of “lack of nobility and humanity”

After punishing him by sending him back without charge to his native diocese in Germany, Pope Francis has decided to speak clearly and openly attack the historic personal secretary of Benedict XVI, Georg Gänswein, whom he accuses of using the figure of the late pope emeritus to encourage opponents of his pontificate.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
01 April 2024 Monday 16:25
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Francis accuses Benedict XVI's secretary of “lack of nobility and humanity”

After punishing him by sending him back without charge to his native diocese in Germany, Pope Francis has decided to speak clearly and openly attack the historic personal secretary of Benedict XVI, Georg Gänswein, whom he accuses of using the figure of the late pope emeritus to encourage opponents of his pontificate. “It hurt me that Benedict was used,” Francis acknowledged, ensuring that the German monsignor demonstrated a “lack of nobility and humanity” by publishing a book on the day of the funeral that criticized the Argentine pope.

“That on the day of the funeral a book is published that makes me upset, that tells things that are not true, it is very sad. Of course, it doesn't affect me in the sense that it doesn't condition me. But it did hurt me that Benedict was used,” Francisco acknowledges in a long interview about his relationship with Joseph Ratzinger published by journalist Javier Martínez-Brocal in the book The Successor.

More than a year after the death of the pope who resigned, Jorge Mario Bergoglio thinks that the time has come to let the world know how he lived coexistence with his predecessor, which he defines as excellent. The Pontiff speaks of Benedict XVI as “a great theologian who left a great legacy for the Church with his teachings”, “a child prodigy who was ahead”, and who by taking a step back demonstrated that he had made a “very advanced, progressive” decision. ” for the future of the government of Catholicism. However, he believes that the figure of the German pope was used by the minority, but vocal ultra-conservative opposition, to this papacy. Something that he believes Benedict never wanted, but that it was some “crazy people” who tried to give the German a role as guarantor of the pontificate.

“I tell you with regret that your secretary sometimes made it difficult for me,” Francisco remarks about Gänswein. For example, when he replaced a person at the head of a department, something that generated controversy, Benedict's historic collaborator wanted to take him to the emeritus and spread a photo, as if he were reproaching the Pope's decision. “Honestly, it was not correct,” says the Pontiff.

In his opinion, “many of those who supported him wanted him to go lower, to become more traumatic, more forceful, more directive, that is, to leave his role as great pastor and enter the game of controversies,” but he “never did.” The Pope assures that his predecessor always defended him, and once gives an example that, after he pointed out that civil unions are a correct way to give legal protection to homosexual people without equating this with marriage, a series of cardinals They came to see Benedict, calling him a heretic and a promoter of homosexual marriage. According to the Pope, Benedict listened to them one by one and then came to his defense and made it clear that he was not speaking heresies. “The situation helped me understand that I had people here who were half covered and who took advantage of the slightest opportunity to bite me,” Francisco warns.

The Pontiff also raises his voice against Gänswein when asked about the isolation perceived by the press during the papacy of Benedict XVI. The Pope considers that his predecessor was a man of “great meekness,” who sometimes preferred not to impose himself on the will of some people who wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and limit his movements. For example, Ratzinger used to go to dinner on Sundays at the house of his former secretary, Josef Clemens, who was famous for being a cook. From one day to the next, those dinners stopped taking place. One Sunday, Benedicto called Clemens and told him that now he could call him “because Don Georg came out.” “It is as if, in order not to offend his collaborators, he avoided even talking on the phone,” reflects the Jesuit.

Francis met Benedict in the late 1990s, when he was appointed archbishop of Buenos Aires and Ratzinger was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Holy Office. He came to see him every time he traveled to Rome, he asked him for help in a matter of a sensitive appointment and they also talked about the fight against sexual abuse, something in which they were “totally in line.” Later, he makes it clear that the German was his candidate in the 2005 conclave, after the death of John Paul II, against the maneuvers of some cardinals to prevent Ratzinger from being elected, the great favorite after having accompanied John Paul II for years. . Then Francis had 40 of the 115 votes in the Sistine Chapel, enough to stop his candidacy, but he assures that those who had written his name on the ballot did not want him to be pope, but only to block the election of a foreigner, Ratzinger, and choose a third person. When he realized this, he told Colombian Cardinal Darío Castrillón that they should stop because he was not going to accept, and that was when Ratzinger achieved enough majority to become the leader of Catholicism. “He was the only one who at that time could be pope. After the revolution of John Paul II, who had been a dynamic pontiff, very active, with initiative, who traveled… there was a need for a pope who maintained a healthy balance, a transitional pope – Francis reasons. “If they had chosen someone like me, who makes a lot of trouble, he wouldn't have been able to do anything.”