Archbishop Georg Gänswein has been seen by many as a gatekeeper of the two popes. As personal secretary to the Pope Emeritus and prefect of the Pontifical Household of Pope Francis, he has unparalleled access to the minds of both.
In an interview yesterday, Gänswein puts to rest the suspicions that the former pope is unaware of the controversies now embroiling the Church. According to Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register:
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who turns 90 on Easter Sunday, has read Amoris Laetitia thoroughly, taken note of the controversies surrounding the document and how it is implemented, but is not commenting on it in any way.
This is according to Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein who, in an April 12 interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica, said the former pope is well aware of contrasts made between him and Pope Francis, but does not let them provoke him, and has “no intention of entering controversies that feel far away from him.”
Benedict XVI, he said, is “serene, quiet and in a good mood,” doing only those things that his strength allows.
Archbishop Gänswein said the Pope Emeritus continues to watch the television news at 8pm, receives L’Osservatore Romano, and Avvenire, the Italian bishops’ newspaper, as well as Vatican press releases. He also enjoys reading the Church fathers and keeping updated on the most important theological publications.
He said Benedict has “never regretted” resigning, but continues to believe that he “did the right thing, for the Lord’s sake and for the good of the Church.” In his soul, Archbishop Gänswein added, is a “touching peace, which suggests that in his conscience there is the certainty of having done well in the sight of God.”
The presence of peace within him “is a beautiful gift stemming from the decision.”
Asked a recurring question — whether he was pressured to step down — Archbishop Gänswein said: “No not at all!,” and referred to Benedict’s comments in last year’s book interview with Peter Seewald, Last Testament, in which he said he had faced “no pressure from any side.”
“If there were, he would not give in,” he said. “He had become aware of not having the strength to guide the barque of Peter which needed a strong rudder. He understood the need to give back to the hands of the Lord what he had received from Him.”
Asked if he was aware of those who see Francis’ magisterium in opposition to Benedict’s, Archbishop Gänswein said that “reading the newspapers and seeing the news, it’s not possible that Benedict doesn’t notice now and again these contrasting positions,” but he doesn’t let such statements provoke him. “He has decided to keep quiet and stay true to this decision,” he said. “He has no intention of entering controversies that feel far away from him.”
On whether he ever regretted dressing in white, his personal secretary said, “It’s a question that for him hasn’t and doesn’t arise. It was a natural thing. He does not see problems [with it],” especially as he removed the mozzetta (the short cape that covers his shoulders) and white sash. “For him it is simply a garment as any other,” he said.
Lastly turning to the controversies in the Church caused by Amoris Laetitia, in particular that the text has caused confusion at the pastoral level due to varying interpretations, Archbishop Gänswein said Benedict XVI “received a copy of Amoris laetitia personally from Francis, in white and autographed.
“He read it thoroughly,” Archbishop Gänswein said, “but he does not comment in any way on the content.
“Certainly he is taking note of the discussion and the different forms in which it has been implemented.”
While it certainly seems hard to believe that Benedict is unaware of what is going on in the Church, isn’t it interesting that we never hear from him directly? I’ve heard from some sources with knowledge of the subject that Gänswein has been acting as the gatekeeper to all things Benedict since before his abdication. We certainly hear with some regularity what Gänswein says Benedict is thinking.
Nevertheless, information does come in and out of the enclave of the Pope Emeritus. He has given interviews and met with visiting groups. He has been seen in public several times.
Sadly, it does appear as though he is not concerned about what has befallen the Church in his absence. If that’s so, more’s the pity.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.