The resignation of Benedict XVI in February 2013 caused the unprecedented anomaly with two pontiffs in the Vatican: tensions, misunderstandings and power games between the two opposing wings of the Catholic Churchas the Italian journalist Massimo Franco tells in his new book “El Monasterio”.
“El Monsterio” (Solferino) reconstructs the author with interviews and confidences the nine years “of the shadow papacy” of Benedict XVI, which have changed the Church “creating the perception of a Church divided between two popes” and how “the resignation of a pontiff will be the great issue that the Church will have to face in the coming years.” next years”explains Franco, a political analyst for Corriere della Sera, in an interview with EFE.
The author addresses the issue of Francisco’s resignation and pontificate but from a new point of view: how these years have been experienced since the Mater Ecclesiae monasterythe small residence located in the Vatican gardens where Joseph Ratzinger XVI lives with his personal secretary, Georg Gaenswein, and four consecrated laywomen.
A place that has become, “unintentionally the two pontiffs”, says Franco, in the headquarters of the opposition to Santa Marta, the hotel inside the Vatican where Jorge Bergoglio established his residence.
”At the beginning there was a kind of copapado, with Francis even asking Benedict XVI to appear and speak on certain occasions because he was covering a missing aspect of his pontificate, that of the conservatives or actually traditionalists. But when Francis’s pontificate ran into difficulties, the monastery was no longer a pole of cooperation, but first became a kind of obstacle and then a form of counterpower”, he explains.
The Mater Ecclesiae monastery, adds this veteran journalist who has visited the pontiff emeritus several times, “is now a symbol that goes beyond the will of those who reside. And this is the background drama in the Church, that there is a fictitious unity behind which many dynamics move.
Among the centrifugal forces that gravitate around the Mater Ecclesiae is Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Faith until 2017, when Francis replaced him with the Spanish Jesuit Luis Ladaria and who in the book states that “the monastery is the place where people wounded by Francis will be healed.
In this way, the German cardinal interprets the monastery as the antithesis of Santa Marta, where the friends of the Argentine pope meet, which he defines as “a dangerous circle of people who act politically and not theologically” and “Sunday theologians” who are capable “to influence and, at the same time, isolate Francis.”
The book tells the details of the various disagreements that have further highlighted this anomaly, such as in 2019, when after the historic meeting of the pope with the episcopal conferences to address the issue of abuse, Benedict XVI published in a German magazine his vision on the subject where he linked these scandals to a supposed moral collapse of contemporary societies.
Or the most recent, in January 2020, when a new book signed by Benedict XVI was announced -without any reference to his status as emeritus- and Cardinal Robert Sarah, one of the main leaders of the conservative faction that criticizes every movement of Francisco.
For Frank, “All these disasters derive from the fact that this papacy emeritus has lasted too long. Muller explains that Ratzinger always believed that he would die a few months after his retirement, but Benedict has been an emeritus for more time, nine years, than the reigning pope, eight years, and this has weakened the official reasons (of weakness) for which he said that he had resigned and has caused the logic of power to explode”.
While some point to the historical secretary of Benedict XVI as the person behind some of these misunderstandings, Franco stresses that Gaenswein is, however, “the emblem of the continuity of both papacies and of the agreement between Francis and Benedict, but he has been crushed by the tensions between the circles of power”.
The book also addresses the risk that the resignation of a pope will remain unregulated, since “it is something that in perspective can be destabilizing for the Church.”
”It is the great gap that must be filled. The great issue not addressed in the Church is whether Benedict’s gesture will be unique or the beginning of a praxis. You have to think that a pope can resign, but also how. He can be a pope who chooses to step aside or who resigns saying that the Church is irreformable, ”Franco points out.
And he predicts: “This will be the great theme of the coming years and the Church will have to face it.”
(with information from EFE)
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