News

Benedict’s statement on priestly celibacy book ‘has never seen light of day’: Vatican journalist

Journalist Sandro Magister claims both Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah wept over controversy surrounding their book.
Featured Image
By Martin Bürger

By Martin Bürger

PETITION: Support Cardinal Sarah's and Pope Emeritus Benedict's Defense of Priestly Celibacy" Sign the petition here.

ROME, Italy, February 13, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Vatican journalist Sandro Magister has said a statement written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI indicating “the full consonance” between him and Cardinal Robert Sarah as the authors of a book defending priestly celibacy “has never seen the light of day.” Additionally, the statement called for “the cessation of all controversy.”

The Rome-based journalist speculated that it was this statement, which was never published, that caused Pope Francis to put Archbishop Georg Gänswein on leave. 

Originally, it was reported by French newspaper Le Figaro, which also published excerpts, that the book From the Depths of Our Hearts on clerical celibacy was written by Cardinal Sarah as well as the former Pope.

Right away, “a storm of criticism ensued against the cardinal and the Pope emeritus, portraying both of them as at odds with Pope Francis,” Edward Pentin wrote in summarizing the developments for the National Catholic Register.

Magister pointed out that the Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Gänswein, repeatedly denied “a co-responsibility of the Pope emeritus in the composition and publication of the book, to the point of requesting the withdrawal of his signature, and contrasted to no avail by the precise and documented reconstruction, made public by Sarah, of the genesis of the book itself by the united efforts of its two co-authors.”

Gänswein usually spends part of his day with the former Pope, for whom he has served as private secretary for many years. Meanwhile, Ganswein also serves as the Prefect of the Papal Household, which puts him in close contact with Pope Francis during official events.

After the disastrous rollout of From the Depths of Our Hearts, Gänswein was reportedly put on leave by Pope Francis. While the press office of the Holy See claimed his absence at public events was “due to ordinary redistribution of the various commitments and duties,” many experts on the Vatican see a direct connection between the book on celibacy and his being put on leave.

The first edition of From the Depths of Our Hearts still listed both Benedict and Sarah as co-authors, but subsequent editions pointed to the former Pope as a contributor. The same is true for many of the translations published in various countries.

Magister, who writes for Italian weekly L’Espresso, used the notable absence of any mention of married priests in Pope Francis’ post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Querida Amazonia” to investigate how much influence the publication of the book on celibacy in January might have had on the papal document.

Magister recounted that on January 15, while Archbishop Gänswein was with Pope Francis at the Wednesday audience, “Benedict XVI picked up the phone himself and called Sarah first at home, where he did not find him, and then at the office, where the cardinal answered.”

During the phone call, Benedict XVI expressed his “heartfelt solidarity” with Sarah, who is the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

“He confided that he could not understand the reasons for such violent and unjust aggression. And he wept. Sarah wept too. The call ended with both of them in tears,” Magister wrote.

Even though he spoke of “multiple independent sources,” it is not entirely clear how the contents of a phone call between two high-ranking members of the Church reached the Vatican journalist.

The Pope emeritus from Germany and the cardinal from French Guinea in Africa met in person on Friday, January 17, first at 5 p.m. and then again at 7 p.m. After those meetings, the cardinal reported on it “in three tweets, in which he confirmed the perfect harmony between himself and the Pope emeritus in the publication of the book.”

“Because of the incessant, nauseating and lying polemics that have never stopped since the beginning of the week, concerning the book From the Depths of Our Hearts, I met this evening with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,” Sarah tweeted in French.

He continued, “With Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, we were able to see how there is no misunderstanding between us. I came out of this beautiful conversation very happy, full of peace and courage. I call you to read and meditate From the Depths of Our Hearts. I warmly thank my publisher, Nicolas Diat, and Fayard, for the rigor, probity, seriousness, and professionalism they have shown. Excellent reading to all!”

In his article, Magister revealed that during those same meetings, Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah had written “a concise statement that was intended to be made public with the sole signature of the Pope emeritus, to certify the full consonance between the two co-authors of the book and call for the cessation of all controversy.”

According to Magister, who has looked at a copy of the statement, “Ratzinger’s personal, even autobiographical, trait is evident.”

The former Pope’s private secretary then delivered the statement to Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, who is the Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State. “And it is reasonable to hypothesize that he informed both his direct superior, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Pope Francis himself about it,” Magister wrote.

The Vatican journalist went on to speculate that it was this statement, which was never published, that caused Pope Francis to put Archbishop Gänswein on leave. 

“In the eyes of Pope Francis, Benedict XVI’s statement had in fact proven the unreliability of the repeated denials made by Gänswein of the Pope emeritus’ co-responsibility in the composition of the book,” said Magister.

“In other words, the opposition of the Pope emeritus against his successor giving in to the radical currents on the front of clerical celibacy stood out at this point front and center, without any attenuation anymore. And all this a few days before the publication of the post-synodal exhortation in which many, all over the world, were expecting to read an opening by Francis to the ordination of married men,” he continued.

Magister also explained that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State, had strongly encouraged the publication of the book. As a matter of fact, Magister wrote, Parolin had looked at the press release put out by the Italian publisher and “burnished (it) line by line.”

The press release praised the book by Cardinal Sarah and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as “a volume of high theological, biblical, spiritual and human value, guaranteed by the depth of the authors and their willingness to make the fruit of their respective reflections available to all, manifesting their love for the Church, for His Holiness Pope Francis and for all humanity.”


Finished reading? Want to make a difference?

You depend on our news reporting. We depend on you. Make an impact today.


Share this article