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Pope meets Benedict’s aide amid funeral, book spats

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ROME — Pope Francis met Monday with Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, Pope Benedict XVI’s longtime secretary who was a key figure at his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores with the reigning pope and the palace reveals intrigue.

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

Speculation is rife about Gaenswein’s future as his main job as Benedict’s caretaker comes to an end following Benedict’s death on Dec. 31. But questions have also been raised about what Francis will do with Gaenswein following the publication this week of his landmark book, “Nothing But the Truth: My Life Beside Pope Benedict XVI.”

In the text, Gaenswein reveals previously unknown details of some of the biggest hiccups and bad blood that have built up over the last 10 years of Benedict living alongside Francis as a retired pope following his 2013 decision to retire, the first pope in history. six centuries he did. 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 head of the papal household in 2020 following a scandal over a book Benedict co-authored. Francis told Gaenswein to stop coming to the office and devote himself to caring for Benedict, effectively ending his job as a “bridge” between the pontificates.

By printing previously secret letters between the two popes and relaying private conversations with both, Gaenswein revealed that Francis refused even pleas from Benedict to reinstate him. Gaenswein was clearly embittered, describing Francis as insincere, illogical and sarcastic in determining his fate, saying that Benedict even made fun of Francis when told of the decision.

“It seems like Pope Francis has stopped trusting me and is making you my chaperone,” Gaenswein quoted Benedict as saying.

Gaenswein also wrote of his displeasure that years earlier Francis had denied him the right to live in the palace apartment formerly occupied by the prefect of the papal household. After a renovation that took longer than usual, Francis instead gave the flat to the Vatican’s foreign minister, forcing Gaenswein to continue living in the monastery Benedict called home.

Gaenswein’s future remains uncertain, and his memoirs are sure to complicate relations with the current pontificate. As an archbishop, he could technically be appointed to an archdiocese in his native Germany. Asked about that possibility, the head of the German bishops’ conference said last week after the funeral that it was not up to him, but to Francis. In addition, some Vatican commentators have suggested that Gaenswein could be appointed as a Vatican ambassador, to run an important shrine, or to resume his academic career.

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

He followed him to the Apostolic Palace when Ratzinger was elected Pope, and then to his retirement when Benedict abdicated. In that capacity, he remained Benedict’s gatekeeper, confidant, protector, and spokesman, and in the new book, he seems eager to settle old scores and set the record straight to defend Benedict and himself one more time.

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