Pope meets with Benedict’s aide amid revelations in new book

Jan 8, 2023, 2:37 PM | Updated: Jan 9, 2023, 8:57 am
FILE - Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gaenswein attends pope's general aud...

FILE - Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gaenswein attends pope's general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

              FILE - Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gaenswein attends pope's general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)
            
              FILE - A gust of wind blows Pope Benedict XVI's cloak as he prays, flanked by his personal aide Rev. Georg Gaenswein, during his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue.  (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)
            
              FILE - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI enters St. Peter's Basilica accompanied by Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, right, at the Vatican, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              FILE - Pope Francis touches his face as he shares a word with Archbishop Georg Gaenswein at the end of weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue.  (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
            
              FILE - Prefect of the Papal Household Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, left, looks at Pope Francis as he arrives for an audience with participants of a pilgrimage of the Italian-Albanian diocese of Lungro, in the Pope Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Saturday, May 25, 2019. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue.  (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              FILE - Archbishop Georg Gaenswein looks at Pope Francis delivering his message during an audience at the Paul VI Hall, at the Vatican, on Feb. 4, 2017. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              FILE - Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gaenswein attends pope's general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)
            
              FILE - A gust of wind blows Pope Benedict XVI's cloak as he prays, flanked by his personal aide Rev. Georg Gaenswein, during his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue.  (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)
            
              FILE - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI enters St. Peter's Basilica accompanied by Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, right, at the Vatican, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              FILE - Pope Francis touches his face as he shares a word with Archbishop Georg Gaenswein at the end of weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue.  (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
            
              FILE - Prefect of the Papal Household Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, left, looks at Pope Francis as he arrives for an audience with participants of a pilgrimage of the Italian-Albanian diocese of Lungro, in the Pope Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Saturday, May 25, 2019. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue.  (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              FILE - Archbishop Georg Gaenswein looks at Pope Francis delivering his message during an audience at the Paul VI Hall, at the Vatican, on Feb. 4, 2017. Pope Francis met on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, with Archbishop Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores and reveals palace intrigue. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              In this image released on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, by the Vatican Media news service, father Georg Gaenswein, left, kisses the coffin of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his funeral mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. Benedict died at 95 on Dec. 31 in the monastery on the Vatican grounds where he had spent nearly all of his decade in retirement.  He was 95. (Vatican Media via AP)
            
              Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, talks with father Georg Gaenswein next to the body of late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lied out in state inside St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. Pope Benedict, the German theologian who will be remembered as the first pope in 600 years to resign, has died, the Vatican announced Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. He was 95. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
            
              Bishop Georg Gaenswein mourns in front of the body of late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lied out in state in St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, where thousands of people filed by to pay tribute to the pontiff who shocked the world by retiring a decade ago. Benedict died Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. He was 95. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
            
              In this image released on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, by the Vatican Media news service, father Georg Gaenswein stands next to the coffin of late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during the funeral mass for late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. Benedict died at 95 on Dec. 31 in the monastery on the Vatican grounds where he had spent nearly all of his decade in retirement.  He was 95. (Vatican Media via AP)
            
              In this image released on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, by the Vatican Media news service, Bishops Georg Gaenswein signs the "rogito" or deed, a short document in Latin that was placed in a metal cylinder in Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's coffin before it was sealed, along with the coins and medallions minted during his papacy and his pallium stoles, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, a day before his funeral mass presided over by Pope Francis at The Vatican. Benedict died at 95 on Dec. 31 in the monastery on the Vatican grounds where he had spent nearly all of his decade in retirement.  He was 95. (Vatican Media via AP)
            
              In this image released on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, by the Vatican Media news service, Bishops Georg Gaenswein, right, and Diego Ravelli cover the face of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with a white silk veil as he rests in a cypress coffin in St. Peter's Basilica, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, the night before his funeral mass presided over by Pope Francis at the Vatican. Benedict died at 95 on Dec. 31 in the monastery on the Vatican grounds where he had spent nearly all of his decade in retirement. He was 95. (Vatican Media via AP)
            
              In this image released on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, by the Vatican Media news service, Bishops Georg Gaenswein, right, and Diego Ravelli cover the face of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with a white silk veil as he rests in a cypress coffin in St. Peter's Basilica, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, the night before his funeral mass presided over by Pope Francis at the Vatican. Benedict died at 95 on Dec. 31 in the monastery on the Vatican grounds where he had spent nearly all of his decade in retirement.  He was 95. (Vatican Media via AP)
            
              FILE - Rev. Georg Gaenswein, back, helps put a cap on Pope Benedict XVI's head at the end of the pontiff's weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, on Oct. 25, 2006. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s longtime personal secretary has written a tell-all book that his publisher on Monday Jan. 2, 2023 promised would tell the truth about the “blatant calumnies,” “dark maneuvers,” mysteries and scandals that sullied the reputation of a pontiff best known for his historic resignation. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              FILE - Pope Benedict XVI flanked by personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gaenswein during a Mass to mark the 900th anniversary of the Order of the Knights of Malta in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, on Feb. 9, 2013. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s longtime personal secretary has written a tell-all book that his publisher on Monday Jan. 2, 2023 promised would tell the truth about the “blatant calumnies,” “dark maneuvers,” mysteries and scandals that sullied the reputation of a pontiff best known for his historic resignation. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)
            
              The body of late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI laid out in state as father Georg Gaenswein stands on the right inside St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. Benedict XVI, the German theologian who will be remembered as the first pope in 600 years to resign, has died, the Vatican announced Saturday. He was 95. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis met on Monday with Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores, reveals palace intrigues and casts Francis in a deeply unfavorable light.

The Vatican provided no details about the content of the private audience, other than to say that it happened.

Speculation about Gaenswein’s future has swirled now that his main job tending to Benedict has come to an end following his Dec. 31 death. But questions have also been raised about what Francis will do with Gaenswein following this week’s publication of his tell-all book, “Nothing But the Truth: My Life Beside Pope Benedict XVI.”

Some Vatican watchers see the book as the first salvo in a new era of anti-Francis attacks from the conservative right, for whom Benedict remained a nostalgic point of reference in retirement. Benedict’s death, and Gaenswein’s postmortem revelations, have removed the façade of a happy cohabitation of two popes.

In the text, Gaenswein reveals previously unknown details of some of the biggest hiccups and bad blood that accrued during the last 10 years in which Benedict lived as a retired pope following his 2013 decision to retire, the first pope in six centuries to do so.

In one of the most explosive sections, Gaenswein says he was “shocked and speechless” when Francis essentially fired him from his day job as the head of the papal household in 2020 after a scandal over a book Benedict co-authored. Francis told Gaenswein to stop coming to the office and to dedicate himself to caring for Benedict, essentially ending his job as the “bridge” between the pontificates.

Printing previously secret letters between the two popes and relaying private conversations with both, Gaenswein revealed that Francis even refused entreaties from Benedict to take him back on. Embittered, Gaenswein described Francis as insincere, illogical and sarcastic in deciding his fate, and said Benedict even made fun of Francis when told of the decision.

“It seems as if Pope Francis doesn’t trust me anymore and is making you my chaperone,” Gaenswein quoted Benedict as saying.

Gaenswein also wrote of his dismay that, years earlier, Francis had refused him the right to live in the palace apartment occupied by his predecessor. After a longer-than-usual refurbishment, Francis gave the flat instead to the Vatican foreign minister, forcing Gaenswein to continue living in the monastery that Benedict called home.

Gaenswein’s future remains uncertain, and his memoir is certainly going to complicate relations with the current pope who will decide his fate. As an archbishop, he technically could be appointed to lead an archdiocese in his native Germany. Asked about that possibility, the head of the German bishops conference said last week that it wasn’t up to him but Francis. In addition, some Vatican commentators have suggested Gaenswein could be appointed as a Vatican ambassador, to run an important shrine or to resume his academic career.

His book is likely to win him points with Francis’ traditionalist critics, since he does what Benedict declined to do for 10 years and reveals publicly what the late pope purportedly thought about his successor’s decisions on two crucial issues: Gaenswein writes, for example, that Benedict believed Francis’ decision to reinstate restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass was an “error” and that his outreach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics was “perplexing.”

He also gets in something of another dig when he quotes Francis as saying that having Benedict in the Vatican was like having a wise grandfather at home, to whom he could turn to for advice. Gaenswein quoted Benedict as noting that he was only nine years older than Francis and that “maybe it would be more correct to call me his ‘older brother.'”

Gaenswein, a 66-year-old German canon lawyer, stood by Benedict’s side for nearly three decades, first as an official working for then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then starting in 2003 as Ratzinger’s personal secretary.

He followed him to the Apostolic Palace when Ratzinger was elected pope, and then into retirement when Benedict stepped down. In that capacity, he remained Benedict’s gatekeeper, confidant and spokesman, and in the new book appears keen to set the record straight to defend Benedict and himself one more time.

In it, he rekindles old dust-ups with journalistic coverage of him or Benedict from everything to the type of letterhead he used to a phrase he uttered, suggesting he had kept track all these years and, with Benedict’s death, felt he finally could speak out.

While there is no playbook outlining how a secretary to a retired pope should behave, publishing a book within a week of his death that critiques his successor, reveals private correspondence and nurses old grudges in finely documented detail certainly doesn’t follow the reserve typical of Vatican protocol.

Austen Ivereigh, a biographer to Francis who co-authored a book with him, noted in a series of tweets Monday that Gaenswein’s book actually seemed to violate a core promise Benedict made when he resigned: that he would be obedient to his successor.

“These disclosures undermine Benedict’s oath of loyalty to Francis, which Benedict stuck to rigorously; violate Gaenswein’s duty of confidentiality to both … and encourage those who seek wrongly to set Benedict’s legacy against Francis,” Ivereigh wrote.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Pope meets with Benedict’s aide amid revelations in new book