In a new interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI repeats once more, “There are not two popes… there is only one Pope.”
Speaking on the eve of the eighth anniversary of his resignation, which went into effect on 28 February 2013, the former pontiff says he is at peace with his decision. “It was a difficult decision. But I made it with full awareness, and I believe I did the right thing.”
Benedict acknowledges the controversy that lingers concerning his renunciation of the papacy, saying “Some of my friends who are a bit ‘fanatical’ are still angry, they did not want to accept my choice… They do not want to believe in a considered choice.” Rejecting various conspiracy theories – that he was pressured to resign due to the VatiLeaks scandal, or on account of plots by the gay lobby, or because of the case of SSPX Bishops Richard Williamson – the pope emeritus says, “My conscience is clear.”
In addition questions about his resignation, the interview also touches on contemporary topics, including the recent change in the Italian government. Speaking of new Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, Benedict expresses the hope that he “will succeed in resolving the crisis, noting that Draghi “is also highly regarded in Germany.”
Benedict also offers his thoughts on newly-elected US President Joe Biden, the first Catholic to hold the office since John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. “It’s true, he’s Catholic and observant, and personally he is against abortion,” he maintains. “But as president, he tends to present himself in continuity with the Democratic Party line.” He also expresses confusion about Biden’s position on another pressing social issue: “And on gender policy we still don’t really understand what his position is.”
Speaking of his successor’s upcoming Apostolic Journey to Iraq, Benedict says, “I think it is a very important trip. Unfortunately it falls at a very difficult time that also makes it a dangerous trip: for security reasons and also because of Covid. And then there is the unstable Iraqi situation.” He adds, “I will accompany Francis with my prayers.”
The Corriere article makes clear that Benedict receives a daily summary of news reports prepared by the Vatican, and in addition has access to papers including L’Osservatore Romano, Corriere della Sera, and at least two German papers. As has been reported by others who have met recently with the Pope emeritus, the authors note that Benedict’s “mind remains clear, as quick as his eyes, attentive and lively,” despite his slow, quiet speech. At times, they add, Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein (who also serves as Prefect of the Papal Household), has to repeat and “interpret” the his remarks, confirmed by a nod from the pope emeritus.
The interview was conducted in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City, where Benedict has resided since May of 2013.