Retired Pope Benedict XVI’s longtime personal secretary has given an interview in which he says he believes the devil was working against Benedict throughout his papacy, but the scandals which erupted during his reign had nothing to do with his historic resignation.
Speaking to the Italian newspaper La Reppublica, German Archbishop Georg Gänswein said the word “scandal” was perhaps “a bit strong” to describe the many crises that erupted during Benedict XVI’s papacy, but that “it’s true that during the pontificate there were many problems.”
From financial and clerical abuse crises, to troubles with the Vatican bank and the so-called “Vatileaks” incident in which confidential documents were leaked to the press, “it’s obvious, as Pope Francis would say, that the bad guy, the evil one, the devil, doesn’t sleep,” Gänswein said.
“It’s clear, he always tries to touch, to hit where the nerves are exposed and do the most damage,” he said, saying he could often feel the devil at work, and, “I felt him very against Pope Benedict.”
Gänswein, 66, currently serves as Prefect of the Papal Household and was Benedict XVI’s personal secretary since before his election to the papacy in 2005, meaning he accompanied the late pontiff throughout his eight-year reign and remained with him after his historic resignation and the nearly 10 years since.
Recalling the day when Benedict was elected, Gänswein said he was sitting in a hallway that attaches the Sistine Chapel to the Vatican’s Pauline Chapel during the 2005 conclave when he heard loud applause erupt.
Applause was unusual, because “the conclave is not a concert,” he said, saying the sudden eruption could only mean that the cardinals had elected a pope, and that the man chosen had accepted.
Shortly afterwards, Gänswein said the large doors to the Sistine Chapel swung open and he entered the chapel, but didn’t know that his boss had been elected until “I saw him, down at the end. He was all white, even his face. His hair was already white.”
Benedict, he said, was already wearing the white papal zucchetto and his white cassock,
“But he was pallid, very pallid. And there, in that moment, he looked at me,” Gänswein said, saying his response was, “Holy Father, I don’t know what to say, congratulations or prayers.”