Friday, February 15, 2013

Archbishop Georg Gänswein: Pope's longtime personal Secretary

Rome, Italy - In what has become a daily exercise in rumor control, the Vatican spokesperson on Thursday shot down one hot bit of speculation about the resignation of Benedict XVI and confirmed another one about his life after the papacy.

Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi denied that an accident suffered by Benedict XVI during his trip to Mexico in March 2012 led to his decision to renounce the papacy, as was suggested in a piece today by a leading Italian Vatican writer.

Journalist Andrea Tornielli wrote this morning that while Benedict was staying in a residence of Capuchin sisters in León, Mexico, he got up during the night to use the bathroom and, because he couldn't quickly find the light switch, made his way in the dark. He hit his head on the sink, hard enough to cause bleeding. ...

On another front, Lombardi confirmed that Benedict will be accompanied to Castel Gandolfo on Feb. 28 and later to the monastery on Vatican grounds where he plans to live by Archbishop Georg Gänswein. The 56-year-old Gänswein is the pope's longtime personal secretary, and Benedict recently also made him the Prefect of the Papal Household, a position previously held by American Cardinal James Harvey.

Lombardi said Gänswein will continue to hold that position into the next papacy, presumably living in the monastery and going to work each day once Benedict gets settled.

That news led to an interesting question during the briefing. The Vatican has repeatedly said Benedict will not have any role in the next papacy, but a reporter asked Lombardi if the fact that his closest aide will also be running the papal household doesn't create an obvious channel to wield behind-the-scenes influence.

Lombardi's response was one of those rare moments when a Vatican official says something out loud that insiders know to be true but rarely dare to acknowledge publicly. In essence, Lombardi said being the Prefect of the Papal Household isn't that big of a deal.


National Catholic Reporter

by John L. Allen Jr. | Feb. 14, 2013