The late Pope Benedict XVI‘s closest aide has revealed years of tension between the German theologian and his successor Pope Francis in an explosive memoir. 

Georg Gaenswein, Benedict’s personal secretary who was seen kissing his wooden coffin in St Peter’s Square last week, has embarrassed the Vatican with a series of revelations about the private conversations between the two popes.

The German prelate, 66, revealed Benedict said Francis ‘doesn’t trust me any more’ and claimed the pair clashed over mass traditions, and modernising the church.

Francis summoned Gaenswein to a private meeting in the Vatican on Monday, a day after making a thinly-veiled comment that: ‘The great gossiper is the devil, who always goes around recounting bad things about others, because he is the liar who seeks to divide the church, to distance brothers and sisters and not to create community.’

The late Pope Benedict XVI's closest aide has revealed years of tension between the German theologian and his successor Pope Francis

The late Pope Benedict XVI’s closest aide has revealed years of tension between the German theologian and his successor Pope Francis

Gaenswein said in his book Nothing but the Truth: My life beside Benedict XVI, that it had ‘pained Benedict’s heart’ when Francis effectively reversed his predecessor’s decision to relax restrictions on the use of the traditional Latin mass.

In 2021, Francis reimposed restrictions on celebrations of Mass which had been relaxed by Benedict in 2007.

Benedict’s ruling had allowed for celebrations of the Old Rite in traditional Latin, with priests often saying the Mass while facing east with his back to the people.

But when Francis overturned it, this was a ‘decisive turning point’ for Benedict, Gaenswein said.

The book also describes Benedict’s perplexity at some of Francis’s decisions, and the latter’s apparent attempts to keep his predecessor in check.

After becoming in 2013 the first pope in six centuries to resign, Benedict promised to live ‘hidden from the world’, but broke that pledge to speak out on several explosive issues.

Georg Gaenswein was Benedict's personal secretary who was seen kissing his wooden coffin in St Peter's Square last week

Georg Gaenswein was Benedict’s personal secretary who was seen kissing his wooden coffin in St Peter’s Square last week

Francis summoned Gaenswein to a private meeting in the Vatican on Monday in a bid to ease tensions (pictured together in 2018)

Francis summoned Gaenswein to a private meeting in the Vatican on Monday in a bid to ease tensions (pictured together in 2018)

The last straw appears to have been a book Benedict co-authored on priestly celibacy in 2020 – a PR disaster that Gaenswein said Francis appeared to blame in part on him.

Gaenswein was effectively fired as head of the papal household with immediate effect.

‘Stay home from now on. Accompany Benedict, who needs you, and act as a shield,’ he said Francis told him.

Gaenswein, who had been propelled into the limelight on Benedict’s election, says he was left ‘shocked and speechless’ by his demotion.

On hearing the news, Benedict said ‘it seems Pope Francis doesn’t trust me any more, and is making you my guardian’.

The ex-pontiff intervened and tried to get Francis to change his mind, but to no avail, Gaenswein wrote.

The German prelate, 66, revealed Benedict said Francis 'doesn't trust me any more' and claimed the pair clashed (pictured on Tuesday in the Vatican)

The German prelate, 66, revealed Benedict said Francis ‘doesn’t trust me any more’ and claimed the pair clashed (pictured on Tuesday in the Vatican)

The book also includes a previously unpublished letter from Benedict to Francis in 2013.

In the letter, Benedict insists on two aspects for his successor going forward, that it is necessary to fight against the ‘concrete and practical denial of the living God’ through abortion and euthanasia, and tackling gender ideology, which he defined as ‘manipulation’.

Up until his death on December 31 at the age of 95, Benedict had remained a figurehead for the conservative wing of the Catholic Church, which views Pope Francis as too liberal.

As his secretary since 2003, Gaenswein was a constant presence at Benedict’s side, and during his final years living in a monastery in the Vatican grounds, his gatekeeper.

After Benedict’s death, Gaenswein led the mourners, greeting visitors to his mentor’s lying-in-state and kissing the coffin in front of tens of thousands at St Peter’s Square during the funeral led by Pope Francis.

Like Benedict, Gaenswein was born in Bavaria. He describes his young self as ‘a bit transgressive’, sporting unruly locks and listening to Pink Floyd.

Gaenswein was a constant presence at Benedict's side, and during his final years living in a monastery in the Vatican grounds, his gatekeeper (pictured together in 2011)

Gaenswein was a constant presence at Benedict’s side, and during his final years living in a monastery in the Vatican grounds, his gatekeeper (pictured together in 2011)

The son of a blacksmith, he was ordained in 1984 and rose through the ranks to become secretary to the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

When Ratzinger was elected to the papacy in 2005, the international media was instantly smitten by his dashing blond-haired assistant.

He was nicknamed ‘Bel Giorgio’ (‘Gorgeous George’) and gossip magazines gleefully began splashing paparazzi-style photographs of him in his tennis whites.

His close relationship with Benedict sparked jealousy, he said in the memoir.

But the new pope, Francis, appeared not to want him nearby, Gaenswein said, citing the pontiff’s refusal to allow him to live in the palace apartment that Benedict had used.

The memoir is not expected to improve relations between the pair, and it was not clear what job Gaenswein will be given now.

Some Vatican commentators have speculated he could be appointed as a Vatican ambassador, or as director of an important shrine.



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