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July 4, 2019 update: Several media outlets around the world have reported that Benedict XVI asserted in a recent interview that “the Pope is one; it is Francis,” but there is no evidence for this in the actual interview. Read LifeSiteNews' report on this matter here: No evidence Pope Benedict said ‘the Pope is one; it is Francis’

VATICAN CITY, June 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Concerned for Church unity, the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, has stated in a new interview that Pope Francis is the only pope.

Massimo Franco, a reporter for Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, published an Italian-language interview with Benedict XVI that was conducted in the Vatican gardens. According to the Catholic News Agency (CNA), the pope emeritus, 92, asserted that Pope Francis is the only Roman pontiff.

“The Pope is one; [he] is Francis,” he is reported to have said.

Benedict also spoke about the unity of the Church.

“The unity of the Church has always been in danger, for centuries,” he said. “It has been for all its history. Wars, internal conflicts, centrifugal forces, threats of schisms.”

“In the end the awareness that the Church is and must remain united has always prevailed,” he continued.

“Its unity has always been stronger than internal struggles and wars.”

According to an introduction to the interview, the men discussed how “too many among those discontented with the Francis pontificate” look to the pope emeritus “as a sort of alternative spiritual and moral leader.”

It was unclear from this introductory article if these particular quotations were from the reporter or Benedict XVI himself. The article also asserted that the pope emeritus has always resisted attempts to make him an “alternative” to Francis and that during the interview, he “reaffirmed his loyal and affectionate relationship with Francis, despite their striking differences in personality, approach to doctrine and liturgy.”

According to CNA, Franco suggested that future historians and biographers of Benedict will have to write about prelates who sought the pope emeritus’s advice during Francis’s pontificate.

“It will not be possible to disregard the highly reserved cardinals and bishops who have come to his door looking for reassurances  and expressing their criticisms and their perplexity towards the current pontificate,” he wrote.

Benedict XVI shocked the Church and the world on February 11, 2013 when he announced that he was resigning from the Petrine office. Historians will also have to address the fears of some Catholics that the pope emeritus was compelled to step down and is mistaken in his belief that he is no longer the pope.

According to Franco’s introductory article, Benedict spoke in a voice that was little more than a whisper but was not at all intellectually impaired. He was attended by his personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gänswein, 62.

Tomorrow, June 29, is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul and the 68th anniversary of the pope emeritus’s ordination to the priesthood.