VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI has never doubted or
regretted his decision to resign, knowing it was the right thing to do
for the good of the church, said Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of
the papal household and personal secretary to the retired pope.
"The church needs a strong helmsman," and Pope Benedict was keenly aware
of his own waning strength while faced with such a demanding ministry,
the archbishop said in an interview published Feb. 12 in the Italian
daily Corriere della Sera.
Two years after Pope Benedict's historic announcement Feb. 11 to step
down as supreme pontiff, Archbishop Ganswein said the retired pope "is
convinced that the decision he made and announced was the right one. He
has no doubt."
"He is very serene and certain in this: His decision was necessary and
made 'after having repeatedly examined my conscience before God,'" he
said, citing words from the pope's Feb. 11, 2013, announcement.
Pope Benedict had told a stunned audience of cardinals assembled for an
ordinary public consistory that "I have come to the certainty that my
strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate
exercise of the Petrine ministry."
Archbishop Ganswein said in the interview that Pope Benedict was aware
of his "duty not to look out for his own self but for the good of the
The pope spelled out the precise reasons for his decision, the
archbishop said, and "all the other considerations and hypotheses are
wrong," including assumptions that the pope's resignation was not valid
or had not been done in full freedom.
"Hypotheses cannot be based on things that are not true and totally
absurd," Archbishop Ganswein said. "Benedict himself said he made his
decision with freedom, without any pressure, and he assured his
'reverence and obedience' to the new pope.'"
The archbishop said doubts about the validity of the resignation and
subsequent election of Pope Francis stem from a lack of understanding of
Also, the option for a pope to resign is explicitly written in the Code
of Canon Law, which says a pope may step down as long as the decision is
made freely and is "duly manifested."
Archbishop Ganswein said Pope Benedict, who will turn 88 in April, is
still following the prayerful, quiet life he wanted to dedicate himself
to upon his retirement.
Like his namesake, St. Benedict -- the father of Western monasticism --
the retired pope "has chosen a monastic life. He goes out (in public)
only when Pope Francis asks him to; as for the rest, he does not accept
other invitations," said the archbishop, who lives with retired Pope
Benedict in a renovated monastery and has been his personal secretary
Archbishop Ganswein told the newspaper that in addition to the pope's
usual routine of prayer, reading, keeping up with correspondence,
receiving visitors, watching the evening news and walking in the Vatican
Gardens, he has been playing the piano much more often: "Mozart
especially, but also other compositions that come to mind at the moment;
he plays from memory."
The only health issues, the archbishop said, are "every now and then his
legs give him some problems, that's all." The pope, who has had a
pacemaker for several years and uses a cane, still has an incredibly
sharp mind, the archbishop added.
When asked what Popes Benedict and Francis might have in common,
Archbishop Ganswein said that while their ways of expression are very
different, the one thing they share is "the substance, the content, the
deposit of faith to be proclaimed, promoted and defended."