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Benedict opens up about falling in love and reforming the Vatican

09 September 2016 | by Christopher Lamb

'Choice of celibacy was not easy" for Pope Emeritus, new book claims as he had 'quite an effect on women'

Benedict XVI has opened up about his struggles to reform the Vatican along with falling in love as a young student. German journalist Peter Seewald, who conducted a book length interview with the Pope Emeritus, says Benedict fell in love in “a very serious way” and struggled with celibacy. 

Speaking ahead ahead of the book’s release today, the journalist described the young Joseph Ratzinger as a “very smart guy, a handsome young man, an aesthete who wrote poetry and read Hermann Hesse.”

He told German newspaper Die Zeit that “one of his fellow students told me that he had had quite an effect on the women - and vice versa. The choice of celibacy is not easy for him”. Benedict, who stunned the world by resigning as Pope in 2013, admits in the book, titled Last Testament that he struggled to govern the Church saying this area was not a “strong point” and that he had “little resolve” when faced with  difficult problems.

But one area where he claims to have made headway was in trying to clean up the scandal-plagued Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR) - better known as the Vatican Bank - and he defends his decision to sack its former President Ettore Gotti Tedeschi.

The Italian economist was removed suddenly and mysteriously in 2012: the Vatican said his dismissal was "because he failed to fulfil the primary functions of his office” while Tedeschi hit back saying he had been pushed out due to his desire for more transparency at the bank. Much of the blame for the dismissal was laid at the door of then Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.  

“For me, there was a big question mark about the IOR from the beginning and I tried to reform it,” Benedict told Seewald in an excerpt of the book published by the “Vatican Insider” website. “It was important to have removed the previous leadership. It was necessary to renew and it seemed right, for many reasons, not to put another Italian at the helm of the bank.” Tedeschi was succeeded by Ernst von Freyberg who in turn was succeeded by current President Jean-Baptiste de Franssu. 

Benedict admits that there were “difficult moments” during his papacy and cites three scandals: the clerical sexual abuse crisis; the Vatileaks affair where his butler leaked confidential documents from the papal apartments; the lifting off the excommunication of traditionalist bishop, Richard Williamson, who denied the holocaust.  

Despite these, however, “it was also a period in which many people found a new life in the faith and there was also a great positive movement” and the Pope Emeritus denies there was any pressure on him to resign. 1

In excerpts of the book published by Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera” Benedict says that Francis is better at “practical reform” of the Church although says he never expected him to be elected as Pope. 

"When I first heard his name, I was unsure," he said. "But when I saw how he spoke with God and with people, I truly was content. And happy.”

Benedict, a former professor, reflects on the years when he was a young, progressive theologian who helped shape the reforms of the Second Vatican Council while appearing to distance himself from traditionalists who have made him into a figurehead of those celebrating the liturgy of the old rite. 

"We were progressives. We wanted to renew the theology and with it the Church, making it more alive,” he explains. 

The Pope Emeritus, who in 2007 opened up the use of the pre-1962 older form of the Mass, stresses that liturgy has to “evolve” but without losing identity. And as an example he cites his re-writing of the Good Friday prayer for the Jews contained in the Old Rite of the Mass which had to be changed because it was anti-semitic. 

 

“Last Testament” contains 630 questions and answers covering a range of topics and was produced following a series of interviews with Benedict - including during his time as Pope. It follows on from an earlier book-length discussion between the two which was published in 2009. The German and Italian editions of the book have been released today with the English version not expected for released until November.



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