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Archbishop Gänswein to return to his home diocese in Germany

The body of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lies in state at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - published on 06/16/23

The Pope has decided that Archbishop Gänswein, Benedict XVI's former secretary, will return to his home diocese in Germany without a specific position for now.

Almost six months after the death of Benedict XVI, Pope Francis has asked Archbishop Georg Gänswein to return to his home diocese in Germany; for now he has not been assigned a position, the Vatican press office announced on June 15, 2023.

Archbishop Gänswein was the private secretary to the German Pope (from 2003 to 2022) and the Prefect of the Papal Household until February 28 this year.

He reportedly has had some tensions with Pope Francis since 2020 and has been publicly at odds with the Pontiff.

Since Benedict XVI’s death on December 31, 2022, speculation had been rife as to whether Archbishop Gänswein would be transferred to a nunciature or the head of a bishopric.

Pope Francis has now decided that the prelate will have no particular position for the time being and will return to his home diocese of Freiburg, in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, where he was ordained a priest on May 31, 1984, at the age of 27. Stephan Burger, 61, has been bishop of this diocese since 2014.

Archbishop Gänswein’s past roles

Although he has been in retirement since 2020, German Archbishop Georg Gänswein was the titular prefect of the Papal Household until February 28, indicates the Holy See Press Office’s statement.

March 4 was the last time he was officially received by Pope Francis.

Pope Francis had another audience with the German prelate on January 9, around 10 days after Benedict XVI’s death, in a tense context: Certain remarks made by the German Pope’s former secretary in his memoirs had been interpreted as direct attacks on the reigning Pope. In a book-length interview with Vatican journalist Saverio Gaeta, Archbishop Gänswein reiterated his bitterness at having been dismissed from his active role as Prefect of the Papal Household, describing himself as a “halved prefect.”

A controversial book

Pope Francis had put him on leave from his responsibilities in January 2020, after the controversy caused by Benedict XVI’s participation in a book by Cardinal Robert Sarah on priestly celibacy. The book had been interpreted as an attack on the conclusions of the Amazon Synod, held three months earlier at the Vatican.

At the same time, by then Pope Benedict was already 92, and increasingly weak and frail.

In his memoirs, Archbishop Gänswein explains that he was appointed by Benedict XVI to head the Papal Household in 2012 to act as a “link” between the two pontiffs, but stresses that he was never able to fulfill this role. Although he was kept in this position in 2013, he believes he was bypassed by Pope Francis, who supposedly preferred his number 2, Archbishop Leonardo Sapienza.

Archbishop Gänswein also says Benedict XVI disagreed with the Argentine Pontiff on certain issues, especially concerning his provisions on the Tridentine Mass. 

Archbishop Gänswein’s recent appearances

Responding to an interview broadcast on Italian TV channel, RAI, on March 2, Archbishop Gänswein said he expected to be given new responsibilities, and hoped that Francis would “trust” him.

On June 12, Archbishop Gänswein was heard as a witness in a trial at the Vatican Tribunal on the management of the Sistine Chapel Choir’s funds. In his testimony, he denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of the choir’s funds, while three members of the former management are being accused of embezzlement, money laundering, and fraud.

Pope Benedict XVIPope FrancisVatican
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