Retired pope says governance wasn't his gift, but Francis is good at it

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While retired Pope Benedict XVI said
organization and governance are not his strong suits, he also said, “I am
unable to see myself as a failure.”

In a book-length interview with the German author Peter Seewald, Pope Benedict
said that when he resigned he had the “peace of someone who had overcome
difficulty” and “could tranquilly pass the helm to the one who came

The new book, “Last Testament,” will be released in
English by Bloomsbury
in November. The German and Italian editions were set for release Sept. 9, but
some excerpts were published Sept. 8 by the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Pope Benedict insisted once again that he was not pressured
by anyone or any event to resign and he did not feel he was running away from
any problem.

“My weak point perhaps is a lack of resolve in
governing and making decisions,” he said. “Here, in reality, I am
more a professor, one who reflects and meditates on spiritual questions.
Practical governance was not my forte and this certainly was a weakness.”

Pope Francis, on the other hand, “is a man of practical
reform,” the retired pope said. His personality and experience as a Jesuit
provincial and archbishop have enabled him to take practical organizational

The retired pope, who is 89, said he had no inkling that then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio would
be elected his successor; “no one expected him.”

“When I first heard his name, I was unsure,” he
said. “But when I saw how he spoke with God and with people, I truly was
content. And happy.”

Pope Benedict said it made no impression on him that the brand new
pope chose to appear on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica without wearing the
ermine-lined red mozzetta or cape. “What did touch me, though, was that
even before going out onto the loggia, he tried to phone me.”

Electing the first Jesuit pope and the first Latin American
pope, the College of Cardinals showed that “the church is moving, dynamic,
open, with the prospect of new developments before it,” he said.
“What is beautiful and encouraging is that even in our day things that no
one expected happen and they demonstrate that the church is alive and brimming
with new possibilities.”

Seewald also asked Pope Benedict about reports that during
his pontificate there was a so-called “gay lobby” in the Curia and the group
protected certain priests by threatening to blackmail others.

The retired pope replied that a commission of three cardinals he had named to
investigate a major leak of reserved documents and conduct an administrative
review of Vatican offices and procedures identified “a small group of
four, perhaps five persons,” which a few Vatican officials and the media
later would refer to as the “gay lobby.”

“We dissolved it,” Pope Benedict said.

The retired pope, who has had a pacemaker since 1997 and can
no longer see out of his left eye, told Seewald that preparing for death is
part of his daily routine. It’s not a matter of getting his earthly affairs in
order, he said, “but of preparing to pass the ultimate examination before

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