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

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

A year after resignation, ex-Pope Benedict has no regrets
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, right, embraces his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, during a ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Pope Francis has declared his two predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II saints in an unprecedented canonization ceremony made even more historic by the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI. (AP Photo/L' Osservatore Romano, ho)
In this picture provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, left, welcomes Pope Francis as they exchanged Christmas greetings, at the Vatican, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)
Pope Francis asperses incense as he leads a solemn celebration in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Tens of thousands of people have filled St. Peter's Square for a historic day of four popes, with Popes Francis and Benedict XVI honoring John XXIII and John Paul II by declaring them saints in the first ever canonization of two pontiffs. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, center, arrives in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Tens of thousands of people have filled St. Peter's Square for a historic day of four popes, with Popes Francis and Benedict XVI honoring John XXIII and John Paul II by declaring them saints in the first ever canonization of two pontiffs. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
In this photo provided by the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, left, and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI pray together in Castel Gandolfo Saturday, March 23, 2013. Pope Francis has traveled to Castel Gandolfo to have lunch with his predecessor Benedict XVI in a historic and potentially problematic melding of the papacies that has never before confronted the Catholic Church. The Vatican said the two popes embraced on the helipad. In the chapel where they prayed together, Benedict offered Francis the traditional kneeler used by the pope. Francis refused to take it alone, saying "We're brothers," and the two prayed together on the same one. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, HO)
ROME, ITALY - MARCH 11: People walk past a poster of Pope Benedict XVI hanging on a wall near Vatican City on March 11, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Cardinals are set to enter the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave is scheduled to start on March 12 inside the Sistine Chapel and will be attended by 115 cardinals as they vote to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 28: Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims, for the last time as head of the Catholic Church, from the window of Castel Gandolfo where he will start his retirement today on February 28, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Pope Benedict XVI has been the leader of the Catholic Church for eight years and is the first Pope to retire since 1415. He will stay at the Papal Summer residence of Castel Gandolfo until renovations are complete at a monastery in the grounds of the Vatican and will be known as Roman Pope Emeritus. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Benedict XVI blesses faifthful for the last time upon arrival in Castel Gandolfo on February 28, 2013. Once he steps down later in the day, Pope Benedict XVI will begin his retirement in the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, a sumptuous villa outside Rome with ornamental gardens, breathtaking views and its own farm. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE,FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 28: A nun looks through a window as she waits for Pope Benedict XVI to address pilgrims, for the last time as head of the Catholic Church, from the window of Castel Gandolfo where he will start his retirement today on February 28, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Pope Benedict XVI has been the leader of the Catholic Church for eight years and is the first Pope to retire since 1415. He will stay at the Papal Summer residence of Castel Gandolfo until renovations are complete at a monastery in the grounds of the Vatican and will be known as Roman Pope Emeritus. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Pope Francis is driven through the crowd after presiding over a solemn ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Pope Francis has declared his two predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II saints in an unprecedented canonization ceremony made even more historic by the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)
Pope Francis leads a solemn celebration where two Popes, John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Tens of thousands of people have filled St. Peter's Square for a historic day of four popes, with Popes Francis and Benedict XVI honoring John XXIII and John Paul II by declaring them saints in the first ever canonization of two pontiffs. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI arrives in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Tens of thousands of people have filled St. Peter's Square for a historic day of four popes, with Popes Francis and Benedict XVI honoring John XXIII and John Paul II by declaring them saints in the first ever canonization of two pontiffs. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


(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."

THE JUDGEMENT OF HISTORY

"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.

Read Full Story

People are Reading