ROME (RNS) After a tumultuous year that saw the first papal resignation in nearly six centuries, the election of Pope Francis, and a dramatic reshaping of the church’s style and tone, the man who set those wheels in motion has no regrets.

Pope Benedict XVI leaves Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24, 2012. RNS photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Benedict XVI leaves Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24, 2012. RNS photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

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Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI, now retired and living in seclusion inside the Vatican, is at peace in his new role and believes history will vindicate his difficult eight-year papacy, his closest aide said in a rare interview.

“It is clear that humanly speaking, many times, it is painful to see that what is written about someone does not correspond concretely to what was done,” Archbishop Georg Ganswein said in an interview with the Reuters news agency on the anniversary of Benedict’s surprise announcement on Feb. 11, 2013, that he would resign.

“But the measure of one’s work, one’s way of doing things, is not (based on) what the mass media write but what is just before God and conscience.”

Benedict’s papacy is remembered for the unabated impact of clergy sex scandals, a controversy in which the pope’s butler leaked his personal papers to the media, and corruption and other abuses in the Roman Curia. But Ganswein said Benedict does not harbor resentment against his critics.

“History will offer a judgment that will be different than what one often read in the last years of (Benedict’s) pontificate,” Ganswein concluded.

The coming weeks will see several key anniversaries related to the papal transition: Feb. 28 marks the anniversary of Benedict’s actual resignation, which will be followed by the one year anniversary, on March 13, of the election of former Cardinal Jose Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis.



  1. All the circumstances that surrounded Josef Ratzinger’s career from a conscripted member of Hitler’s youth movement, to priest, to liberal advisor at Vatican II, to evolving conservative theology professor at Tubingen and finally at Regensburg, to bishop of Munich, to his assignment as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and cardinal by John Paul II, with everything set in motion for Ratzinger to be John Paul’s successor, it is very sad that during the long, later stages of that clerical ascendancy, he fell so out of step with the religious thoughts and feelings of the vast majority of Catholics over whom he was eventually set as “divine ruler.”

    Georg Ganswein, “Gorgeous George” of Benedict’s reign, has good reason to defend his promoter. He was expectedly made an immediate archbishop by his mentor in December of 2012, just two months before Benedict’s abdication, when both knew that the resignation was coming. Things are done just as boldly in the Cathoic hierarchy as they are done among the politicians of the United States. Have you noticed the ascendancy of Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston paired with the descendency of the loud and bold political animal Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York? To say nothing of the ornately dressed Cardinal Raymond Burke of the curia. Thank you, Francis!

    In the midst of all this plain church politics, it is still sad that Josef Ratzinger-Benedict was, or became, so out of tune with his times. He himself announced at the conclave that elected him–in spite of that election being a pre-arranged deal by John Paul and Ratzinger–the electoral College of Cardinals was plainly stacked for the purpose during the extra long “reign” of John Paul–that he, Ratzinger, was no administrator. True, Ratzinger was no administrator. He was a very old-school theological dictator-professor. He ignored Kristallnacht back home, and he virtually attempted to bring about a church version of it during his time at CDF and as pope.

    Ratzinger was an out-of-place academician. He was also extremely out of place with the corruption of the Vatican curia, the mainline theological thinking of the church, and the refusal of the People of God to be dragged back kicking and screaming to pre-Vatican II.

    Ratzinger-Benedict may have no regrets about having resigned, but the church-at-large has no regrets, either. Georg Ganswein must now serve his master in return for all the ecclesiastical rewards bestowed on him, and he fully deserves his moniker, “Gorgeous George,” but I am sure he is chomping at the bit for a piece of action of his own now that he has been relegated to caretaker of the declining Benedict when he, Ganswein, is so relatively young.

    A good shot of real democracy–absolutely including the “lay people”–would work wonders for this dying church. Nothing else will work. And that includes married priests and women priests. Until that happens, the church is retiring along with its former pope. That is good. The old must be buried before a new phoenix can arise from the ashes.

  2. Methinks, the Archbishop of Gotham sounds often like a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. Without a papal patron, Dolan will fade, but be used by as grist by the NYC media mill.

    Dolan: “Well, that’s enough about me…what do you think about me?”

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