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Pope Benedict was surprised by dismissal of Vatican bank president

Catholic World News - October 23, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI was taken by surprise when the president of the Vatican bank was fired, the former Pontiff’s personal secretary has disclosed.

In an interview with the Italian daily Il Messaggero, Archbishop Georg Gänswein revealed that Pope Benedict was “surprised, very surprised” to learn that the board of the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) had dismissed the president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. Archbishop Gänswein said that Pope Benedict, who had appointed Gotti Tedeschi, “held him in high esteem” and remained in touch with him after his departure from the IOR.

Despite his admiration for the IOR leader, Pope Benedict chose not to intervene in the case, Archbishop Gänswein said, because he respected the professional competence of the board members involved in the decision. Nevertheless the fact that the Pontiff was not given prior notice of the shocking dismissal helps to confirm reports of widespread disarray in the administration of the Vatican during that period.

The firing of the IOR president was announced on the same day that the former Pontiff’s valet, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested in the Vatileaks scandal. Although the two events were not related, Archbishop Gänswein acknowledges that the day was a difficult one for the Pontiff.

The German archbishop—who continues to act as personal secretary to Pope-emeritus Benedict, while also serving as prefect of the pontifical household under Pope Francis—told Il Messaggero that it is a challenge to work with both men simultaneously. “Fortunately there is a relationship of sincere esteem and fraternal affection” between them, he said. Archbishop Gänswein scoffed at the suggestion that the presence of Benedict XVI at the Vatican could lead to the rise of factions, or contending parties appealing to the authority of the former Pontiff. “Anyone who knows Benedict XVI knows this risk does not exist,” he said.

Archbishop Gänswein also dismissed the idea that Pope Francis plans a radical change in direction at the Vatican. Although the new Pope’s personal style is quite different, he said, the idea that he is bringing revolutionary change to the Church is nothing but a “frivolous slogan.”

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