Cardinal Robert Sarah has rejected claims that he misrepresented Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, saying that there is “no misunderstanding” between them.
Last week, Ignatius Press published a book in which both Cardinal Sarah and Benedict defended the institution of clerical celibacy.
The cardinal and the Pope Emeritus were originally listed as co-authors, but after an outcry, Benedict’s aide Archbishop Georg Gänswein asked for Benedict to be listed only as a contributor.
What churchmen said
Cardinal Sarah said the reaction to the book’s publication had been “incessant, nauseating and deceptive”.
In response to claims that Benedict had not meant to be listed as co-author, he gave an account of their work on the book, saying that he had said “a complete manuscript to the Pope Emeritus containing, as we had mutually decided, the cover, a common introduction and conclusion, Benedict XVI’s chapter, and my own chapter.” The cover lists them as joint authors.
His words about the cover were, however, directly contradicted by Archbishop Gänswein, who told the a news agency that Benedict had never given permission to be listed as author.
Ignatius Press said they would still list Benedict and Cardinal Sarah as co-authors on the cover.
What the media said
Few observers tried to resolve the contradiction between the Gänswein and Sarah accounts.
The Guardian’s Angela Giuffrida wrote that it was the first time Benedict “has intervened, whether knowingly or not, in a matter that the Pope is actively considering. Francis is weeks away from publishing his decision on the Amazon” – where there have been calls for making major exceptions to priestly celibacy.
Elise Harris at Crux suggested that “this week’s episode could well have been Sarah’s ‘last hurrah’, as the Guinean cardinal is set to turn 75 in June, meaning he will be required to submit his resignation after having reached the formal age of retirement for bishops and cardinals.” It will be for Pope Francis to decide whether to ask the cardinal to stay on.