A fascinating interview with Archbishop Georg Gänswein, secretary to both Francis and Benedict, from Zenit:
Q: How do you manage to collaborate with two Popes? It doesn’t seem easy to adapt oneself to two such different personalities …
Archbishop Gänswein: They are certainly very different between them: and for me, after a long experience as Secretary of Cardinal Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, to begin to work also with Pope Francis was not easy. Let’s say that, using media language, I had to “render myself compatible,” because it was quite an intense change. I had already received the office of Prefect, which Francis wished to reconfirm. What my collaborators and I do is to serve. And that is all. How is this done?
It depends much on the way the Pope guides the Church. However, I must say that there is a great advantage in all this: to live and work with two Popes, and to experience this diversity, has helped me and helps me to grow humanly and spiritually.
Q: Beyond the physical differences – the shoes, the cross, etc., it seems sometimes that there is a distance between the two also in what they say …
Archbishop Gänswein: All the stories that we heard at the beginning of the Pontificate as, for instance, that he uses black shoes, or that the material of his pectoral cross is less than silver, are secondary: they are exterior things, ways of doing things. If one looks more closely at the contents, it will be seen that in exercising the munus petrinum there is continuity with Benedict XVI. And this is right. We are talking of a South American and a German, of two very different personalities. The first is educated and formed by the Jesuit spirituality, and it is logical that his way of thinking, of doing and also of exercising the Petrine service is different from one who had first of all an academic-university formation.
Q: Francis often reminds me of John Paul II …
Archbishop Gänswein:: Yes, he can be so, even if they arrived at the See of Peter with twenty years of difference. Both had already accumulated enormous pastoral experience, although in a very different political and cultural context. Pope Francis, after having directed a large and not easy diocese such as that of Buenos Aires; Saint John Paul II at the head of the Church of Krakow that, at the time, was the only place where one could express oneself freely. I think we can compare them in this respect, but also in some aspects of their personality.
Archbishop Gänswein:: Francis, for instance, talks a lot about the “culture of encounter”: to meet persons, and to meet them as much as possible. John Paul II didn’t speak expressly of this culture, but he put it constantly into practice. It is contact with others, including physical contact, which is striking in the two Popes.