The Successor: My Memories of Benedict XVI (“El sucesor. Mis recuerdos de Benedicto XVI”) is the title of Pope Francis’ upcoming book-interview on Benedict XVI. Spanish publishing house Planeta will publish it in Spanish on April 3, 2024, it announced on February 8. Just over a year after the German Pontiff’s death, Pope Francis tells the story of the unprecedented episode of having “two popes” living at the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the See of Peter on February 11, 2013, plunging the papacy into an unheard-of situation in the contemporary history of the Catholic Church. He retired to a Vatican monastery, where he lived in silence for almost 10 years, just a few hundred yards from Pope Francis, his successor. The pope emeritus passed away on December 31, 2022, at the age of 95.
“He would never say, ‘I disagree’”
“Benedict and I had a very deep relationship. I want it to be known and I want it to be known without intermediaries. He is a man who had the courage to resign and, from that moment on, he continued to accompany the Church and his successor,” says Pope Francis in an extract released by the publisher.
In the 240-page interview, the Argentine Pontiff answers questions from Spanish Vatican reporter Javier Martinez-Brocal of the daily ABC and “reveals important aspects” of the years he spent first with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and then with Benedict XVI. The Argentine Pope recalls:
Sometimes I would raise a point, sometimes Benedict would. “I’m concerned about this issue,” one would say to the other. We talked about everything, very freely. When I presented him with a difficulty, he’d reply, “Well, you have to take this element and that element into account too.” He was always broadening the perspective. He had the ability to broaden the perspective to help me make a good decision. He would never say, “I disagree.” I remember him saying, “That’s fine. But we should also take into account this other element …”
An unprecedented and much-commented coexistence
The relationship between Pope Francis and his predecessor has been the subject of much comment, often highlighting their differences in personality, Church governance, and pastoral, doctrinal, or liturgical sensibilities.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his secretary, published his memoirs a few days after Benedict XVI’s death. In them, he reported several areas of disagreement between the Argentine Pontiff and his predecessor. He noted in particular that Benedict XVI had considered the 2021 motu proprio Traditionis custodes, which reversed the liberalization of the Tridentine Mass, to be an “error.”
Asked on the plane back from South Sudan about the tensions in the Church following the death of Benedict XVI, Pope Francis was very clear:
“I believe that Benedict’s death has been instrumentalized by people who want to add fuel to their fire. And people who, in one way or another, instrumentalize such a good person, so much of God, I would almost say a holy father of the Church, these people have no ethics, they are partisan people, not people of the Church.” He added, “Some of the stories being told, that Benedict was bitter about this or that thing the new Pope did … are complicated inventions.”