The book with Francis’ memories of Benedict XVI: “For me he was a father”

The book with Francis’ memories of Benedict XVI: “For me he was a father”
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“El Sucesor”, the book interview with the Pope by journalist Javier Martínez-Brocal: «He always defended me, he never interfered»

Vatican News

«Benedetto was a man of great kindness. In some cases, some people took advantage of him, perhaps without malice, and restricted his movements. Unfortunately, in a way, they were surrounding him. He was a very delicate man, but he wasn’t weak, he was strong. But he was humble with himself and preferred not to impose himself. So he suffered a lot.” These are some of the words with which Pope Francis remembers his predecessor Benedict XVI, in the book interview with the journalist Javier Martínez-Brocal, “El Sucesor” (Editorial Planeta), out Wednesday 3 April.

«He let me grow – explains Francesco – he was patient. And if he didn’t see something clearly, he’d think about it three or four times before telling me. He let me grow and gave me the freedom to make decisions.” The Pope recounted the relationship that linked him to the emeritus for almost ten years of coexistence in the Vatican: «he left freedom, he never interfered. On one occasion, when there was a decision that he didn’t understand, he asked me for explanations in a very natural way. He told me: “Look, I don’t understand this, but the decision is in your hands”, I explained the reasons to him and he was happy.” In the book, Francis explains that his predecessor never opposed any of his decisions: «He never took away his support from me. Maybe there was something he didn’t agree with, but he never said so.”

The Pope also recalled the circumstances of his farewell to Benedict, Wednesday 28 December 2022, when he saw him alive for the last time: «Benedict was lying in bed. He was still conscious, but he couldn’t speak. He looked at me, shook my hand, understood what I said, but he couldn’t articulate a word. I stayed with him like that for a while, looking at him and holding his hand. I remember perfectly his clear eyes… I said a few words to him with affection and blessed him. This is how we said goodbye.”

Regarding continuity between pontificates, Francis said: «What I see in the last Popes… is that each successor has always been marked by continuity, continuity and difference», because «in continuity each one has brought his personal charism… always there is continuity and not rupture.”

Francis also recounted a specific case in which he was defended by Benedict XVI. «I had a very nice conversation with him when some cardinals went to meet him surprised by my words on marriage, and he was very clear with them. One day they showed up at his house to practically put me on trial, and accused me in front of him of promoting homosexual marriage. Benedetto didn’t get upset because he knew perfectly well what I thought. He listened to them all, one by one, calmed them down and explained everything to them. It was once that I said that, since marriage is a sacrament, it cannot be administered to homosexual couples, but somehow some guarantee or civil protection had to be given to the situation of these people. I said that in France there is the formula of “civil unions”, which at first sight may be a good option, because it is not limited to marriage. For example – I thought – you can accommodate three elderly pensioners who need to share healthcare services, inheritance, housing, etc. I meant that it seemed like an interesting solution to me. Some went to tell Benedict that I was speaking heresies. He listened to them and with great loftiness helped them to distinguish things… he told them: “This is not heresy”. How he defended me! … He always defended me.”

The Pope also responded to a journalist’s question about the books released in conjunction with the death of the Pope Emeritus. Francesco replied: «They caused me great pain: that on the day of the funeral a book was published that turned me upside down, telling things that are not true, is very sad. Naturally it doesn’t affect me, in the sense that it doesn’t affect me. But it hurt me that Benedetto was used. The book was published on the day of the funeral, and I experienced it as a lack of nobility and humanity.”

Finally, the Pope revealed to Javier Martínez-Brocal that he had already ordered a review of the papal funeral, explaining that the wake for Benedict XVI was the last with the Pope’s body outside the coffin and the catafalque with cushions. The Popes «are to be watched over and buried like any other son of the Church. With dignity, like any Christian.”

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