Pope Francis meets Benedict’s top aide as memoir rattles Vatican

Pope Francis meets Benedict’s top aide as memoir rattles Vatican

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis met privately on Monday with Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the former closest aide to Pope Benedict, who has shocked the Vatican with a book describing what he says were the struggles while two men in white lived within its ancient walls.

The Vatican’s daily bulletin listed Ganswein on the pope’s audience schedule, but as usual did not provide details.

Hours after Benedict was buried on Thursday, an Italian publishing house sent several media, including Reuters, advance copies of Ganswein’s 330-page paper “Nothing But the Truth – My Life with Benedict XVI.”

Ganswein, 66, was Benedict’s personal secretary from 2003, when Benedict was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and remained at his side for nearly 20 years until his death on December 31. He was also Francis’s doorman until the two fell out.

The main question facing Francis now is what position to give Ganswein. Many are waiting to see if he will find another job in the Vatican or be assigned elsewhere in the world.

The decision is significant because now that Benedict is dead, Ganswein could be called upon by conservatives to fill his shoes as a rallying point for those alienated by Francis’ reforms, including the scrapping of the old Latin Mass.

In the book, which will be in bookstores Jan. 12, Ganswein gives an inside look at Benedict’s election in 2005, his 2013 decision to become the first pope in 600 years to resign, his years after the papacy, the illness and the last hours.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni has not commented on the book, written with Italian journalist Saverio Gaeta and published by Piemme, an imprint of Mondadori.

The Vatican never says what is discussed in private audiences, unless they are with a head of state. Ganswein could not immediately be reached for comment.

Since stories about the book’s themes have been published, criticism has come on social media and in Italian newspapers, including from a cardinal and at least two priests, about its claims and the timing of its publication.

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Although Francis often compared Benedict’s life in the Vatican to being a grandfather at home, the book describes some tense situations.

For the first seven years after Francis was elected pope, Ganswein held down his two jobs. One was the Prefect of the Papal Household – a gatekeeper who controlled Francis’ public events – and the former Pope’s private secretary.

Ganswein writes that he was never able to reach a “climate of trust” with the new pope and that Francis probably let him hold the post of prefect for so long out of respect for Benedict.

The two had a falling out in 2020 when Ganswein was at the center of a messy episode about a book on priestly celibacy.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alison Williams)

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