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A year after resignation, ex-Pope Benedict has no regrets

(Reuters) - A year after his shock resignation, Pope Emeritus Benedict has no regrets and believes history will vindicate his tumultuous and much-criticized papacy, the man closest to him told Reuters in a rare interview.

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who now works for the former pope as well as being the head of Pope Francis's household, shed new light on how Benedict spends his days, his health, his feelings about his momentous decision and the relationship between the two popes.

"Pope Benedict is at peace with himself and I think he is even at peace with the Lord," said Ganswein, whose twin roles bring him into contact with the current and former pope daily.

Benedict announced his decision to resign, the first pope to do so in 600 years, on February 11, 2013, citing the physical and psychological strains of the papacy. He stepped down on February 28 and Francis was elected on March 13 as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years.

His eight-year papacy was marked by mishaps and missteps, often blamed on a dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy, and intrigue befitting a Renaissance court. The "Vatileaks" scandal, in which Benedict's butler was arrested for leaking the pope's private papers to the media, alleged corruption in the Holy See, something the Vatican denied.

A rigorous theologian-teacher and reluctant chief executive, he was often vilified by some in the media for a style seen as distant and aloof.

Ganswein, who has been at Benedict's side since before his election in 2005, said the former pope had no regrets about leaving office and held no resentment against his critics who the Vatican says misunderstood him.

"No. It's 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. But the measure of one's work, of one's way of doing things, is not what the mass media write but what is just before God and before conscience."


"I am certain, indeed convinced, that history will offer a judgment that will be different than what one often read in the last years of his pontificate," Ganswein said in a telephone interview.

Benedict, who now resides in a former convent in the Vatican gardens, said before he left office that he would live out his days "hidden from the world" in prayer and isolation. He has been photographed only four times since then.

"Indeed, he is far from the world but he is present in the Church. His mission now, as he once said, is to help the Church and his successor, Pope Francis, through prayer. This is his first and most important task," Ganswein said.

Benedict was cheered by conservatives, who have not taken to Francis' more open, informal style, for trying to reaffirm traditional Catholic identity, while liberals accused Benedict of turning back the clock on reforms and hurting dialogue with Muslims, Jews and other Christians.

When Benedict decided to stay in the Vatican, there was much speculation that the decision could have a destabilizing effect on the Church but the fears did not materialize.

"From the very start there was good contact between them and this good beginning developed and matured. They write to each other, they telephone each other, they talk to each other, they extend invitations to each other," Ganswein said.

He said Benedict spends his time studying, reading, handling correspondence, receiving visitors, playing the piano and praying while taking walks in the Vatican gardens.

"He is well but certainly he is a person who carries the weight of his years. So, he is a man who is physically old but his spirit is very vivacious and very clear," Ganswein said.

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Hi Roger! February 10 2014 at 7:05 PM

I suspect the proof in the pudding will be when Pope Francis is no longer saddled with Pope Benedict's prearranged role given Ganswein. As a US citizen, I see in Pope Francis a resumption of Pope John XXIII's mission moving the Church from the dark ages into the 21st century. It has always seemed that Pope Benedict was in league with Pope John Paul II promulgating dogma rather than Christ's gospel.

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thom nickels February 10 2014 at 4:29 PM

Pope Francis' liturgical style is mundane and uninspiring. Midnight Mass under his papacy has been droll and utilitarian, with bland vestments that look more like judical robes. He needs to stop persecuting the Francisians of the Immaculate. He's done some good things, yes. I like his views on capitalism, the poor and the whole "Who am I to judge" thing, but that doesn't mean he has to dismantle tradition like a maniac in the name of "humility."

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Joe February 10 2014 at 3:05 PM

ENVY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! POWER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! COMPETITION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Carmen February 10 2014 at 2:55 PM

If Pope Francis can have a more open, understanding dialogue with the Nuns on the Bus, those who do the actual work of the church and do not deserve the disdain of Vatican "royalty", then more power to him. He has already moved the church in that direction. . . long overdue. CJK

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fred98115 February 10 2014 at 2:01 PM

The Church is flawed because the congregation is made up of less than perfect people. No one is ideal. We are all on a journey striving each day to be better Christians. Pope Benedict, I think, realized that his resignation was the next, best step for him to take on his spiritual trek. He should be applauded for taking that radical move. It is a lesson for each of us, that change is a call from Jesus that we should accept.

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Welcome Sarge! February 10 2014 at 1:34 PM

Pope Benedict was by far the greatest Pope of my lifetime. He returned to Church to it's traditional role of being the guardian of the faith and re-affirmed traditional marriage . Muslims would never have been allowed to preach in a Catholic church nor would Pope Benedict have approved of the covering of the cross when Obama spoke at a Catholic college in the United States. He is terribly missed...

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David S. February 10 2014 at 2:29 PM

I have a feeling your opinion is in the minority among your fellow Catholics.....

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thom nickels February 10 2014 at 4:32 PM

Most Catholics aren't up to snuff in areas of theology and Church history. They see a pope on the cover of Rolling Stone and they are all ga-ga. It is the cult of personality. A rock star pope can never be a great pope.

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usci1 February 10 2014 at 1:16 PM

What does "resignation" mean? Resign from what? Maybe he should be visiting the orphanages, schools, and hospitals to let people talk to him about whatever concerns them?

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elexuswon February 10 2014 at 1:02 PM

Get rid of all religions / and there go the wars

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Rey February 10 2014 at 12:57 PM

Benedict has no regrets, and apparently, neither does the rest of the world!

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thom nickels February 10 2014 at 4:34 PM

The world has been wrong about so many things. At least Benedict had a solid sense of the liturgy,
and didn't persecute the Franciscan monks of the Immaculate.

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cgoslingpbc February 10 2014 at 12:23 PM

Popes come in all sizes and shapes, but not colors.
Popes are elected, not chosen by God. Politics are an important part of chosing a Pope.
Not all Popes are good people. Some have started wars, burned innocent people at the stake, Ecommunicated people for believing the earth and planets move around the sun.
Toture people who believed the earth was round.
One of the worst failures of Popes is to allow child abuse to continue in the church.
Popes are responsible for many things they have done, and for many things they have not done.
So, why are there still so many Catholics?

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