Catholic World News

'Absurd' to see conflict between Benedict XVI, Francis, says Archbishop Gänswein

January 22, 2015

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who has served as private secretary to both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, has said that it is “absurd” to believe that there are disagreements between the two Pontiffs.

“I know of no doctrinal statements from Pope Francis which are contrary to the statements of his predecessor,” said the German prelate, who is now prefect of the Pontifical Household.

In a lengthy and revealing interview with a German journal, Christ und Welt, Archbishop Gänswein spoke candidly about the changes in approach under Pope Francis, the controversial October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, and the Pope’s blunt criticism of the Roman Curia.

The archbishop recalled that he had been seated beside Pope Francis when the Pope, in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia, listed the failings of Vatican officials. “During the talk I could already see the headlines,” he said.

“The reactions ranged from surprise to shock and incomprehension,” Archbishop Gänswein said. He acknowledged that many Vatican officials questioned the negative tone of the papal talk. But he concluded: “He obviously thought it necessary to speak clearly and to cause an examination of conscience."

Questioned more generally about Pope’s leadership, the archbishop said that he constantly heard questions about the Pope’s priorities. For himself, he said, there is no confusion: “the most important priority is mission, evangelization.”

However, when asked who are the closest advisers to Pope Francis, the archbishop gave the remarkable answer: “I don’t know.”

Archbishop Gänswein rejected the idea that Pope Francis is pushing for a change in the Church’s teaching regarding divorce, or the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to the Eucharist. He pointed out that the Pope is the guarantor of Catholic orthodoxy. “Doctrine and pastoral care are not in opposition, they are like twins,” he added.

When he was asked about a report that some bishops had approached Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI during the Synod, urging him to intervene, the archbishop said that no such meeting took place. As for the publication of an article by the former Pontiff, which had been revised to eliminate a suggestion about Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, Archbishop Gänswein reported that Benedict XVI had revised that article months earlier, before the Synod was convened.

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