Tn a rare interview, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has reaffirmed that “The Pope is one; [he] is Francis.”
In the interview, conducted in the Vatican Gardens with Massimo Franco of Corriere della Sera, Benedict said that the Church’s unity had always prevailed despite severe threats over the course of Catholic history.
Why was it under-reported?
Benedict’s remark will have struck many as a mere statement of the obvious. In any case, it is not the first time that he has dismissed the idea of Francis not being pope. In 2014, Benedict said “There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my renunciation of the Petrine ministry.” It was “simply absurd” to think otherwise, Benedict said in a blunt statement.
Yet he felt the need to state it again – showing that, at least in Italy, conspiracy theories continue to swirl over his resignation.
What will happen next?
The idea that Benedict is still pope has some popularity in fringe circles. The Italian writer Antonio Socci recently argued that Benedict “has intended to remain as pope, although purely in an enigmatic way and unofficial form”.
Such theories appeal to some Catholics who think Pope Francis acts with an un-papal disregard for Church teaching. Rather than simply seeing him as a bad pope, they speculate that he is no pope at all. And if Benedict’s latest comments won’t dissuade them, perhaps nothing will.
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