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Papal secretary recalls Pope Benedict’s resignation

March 07, 2014

Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, a Maltese priest who served as Pope Benedict XVI’s second secretary, recalled Pope Benedict’s resignation in a recent interview.

Msgr. Xuereb subsequently became the first secretary of Pope Francis and was recently named secretary general of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy.

Before Pope Benedict publicly announced his resignation, “the news was communicated to us personally,” the priest recalled in a Zenit interview. “I was called by him officially. I sat down in front of his desk. Although it wasn’t the first time [I’d gotten such a call], I perceived I would receive a very important communication. Obviously, no one expected it. He was calm, as one who already went through a struggle and surmounted the moment of indecision. He was serene as one who knows that he is in the will of the Lord.”

He continued:

As soon as I heard the news, my first reaction was: “No, Holy Father! Why don’t you think about it a bit more?” Then I stopped myself and said to myself: “Who knows how long he has been examining this decision.” Coming back to my mind like lightning were the long moments and recollections in prayer before the Mass and I listened to his words attentively. Everything was already decided. He repeated twice to me: “You will go with the new Pope.” Perhaps he had an intuition; I don’t know. The day I left Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo I wept, and I thanked him for his great paternity …

I was with him two to three days after the election of Pope Francis … I didn’t know anything about what was happening at Saint Martha’s; I didn’t even know that Pope Francis did not have a secretary. Then the touching moment arrived, when I entered Benedict’s office to greet him personally. Afterwards there was lunch, but I greeted him at that moment and I said to him: “Holy Father, it’s very difficult for me to detach myself from you. I thank you very much for what you have given me” … Pope Benedict was not moved during these moments. He stood up, I knelt down, as we were accustomed to do to kiss the ring. Not only did he allow me to kiss the ring, but he raised his hand above me and blessed me. We took our leave in this way.


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