Responding to interpretations of a recent reference by emeritus Pope Benedict XVI to the Church being near “capsizing,” the retired pontiff’s closest aid on Tuesday said it’s a “fantasy” to set him up against Pope Francis.
“They’re trying to use the pope emeritus in an anti-Francis tone,” said German Archbishop Georg Gänswein, speaking to the Italian daily Il Giornale.
Reports of Benedict criticizing his successor came after Gänswein, who also serves Francis as the Prefect of the Papal Household, read a message from the emeritus pope at the July 15 funeral of Benedict’s long-time friend, German Cardinal Joachim Meisner.
Meisner, who died on July 5, was the retired archbishop of Cologne, and had long been considered among Germany’s leading conservative Catholic voices. He’s one of the four cardinals who presented Francis with five dubia, or questions, regarding his 2016 document on the family Amoris Laetitia.In his tribute, Benedict had nothing but praise for Meisner, but one sentence grabbed attention: According to the text, what moved Benedict the most from the final period of his friend’s life was that he had learned “to let go” and live with the “deep certainty that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when sometimes the boat is filled almost to capsizing.”
Many commentators took this to be a reference to the leadership of Francis, even though it’s an image the German pontiff used on several previous occasions, usually referring to perennial challenges to the Church rather than current events.
“Stupid people,” Gänswein said. “The emeritus pope was deliberately exploited, he wasn’t alluding to anything specific with that phrase, but talking about the situation of the Church of today and that of the past as a boat that doesn’t sail in calm waters. Francis also says this.”
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