A senior papal aide has been sidelined amid ongoing controversy about priestly celibacy. Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who has served as prefect of the pontifical household during the papacies of both Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, has reportedly been asked to step back from some of his duties.
Although no reason has been given publicly, the demotion follows Gänswein’s involvement in the furore over a book, partly authored by Pope Benedict XVI, which defended celibacy.
What the media said
Die Tagespost broke the story, claiming that Archbishop Gänswein had been placed on indefinite leave. The newspaper said that the “apparent” reason was the “unfortunate presentation” of the book on priestly celibacy, which originally appeared with Benedict’s and Cardinal Sarah’s names on the cover.
The book was covered by some media sources as a gentle rebuke to Pope Francis, who was thought to be considering making exceptions to the law on priestly celibacy. Archbishop Gänswein later issued a statement saying that Benedict did not want to be listed as co-author; but, Die Tagespost implied, this was too late to stop the archbishop from being blamed.
The Vatican said that Archbishop Gänswein had not been placed on leave, but did not deny that some of his public duties had been taken away.
What it means for the exhortation
The story may mean that a familiar face at papal events will be seen rather less: Archbishop Gänswein will now focus on caring for Benedict XVI rather than working with Pope Francis. But it is also significant because it shows that the aftershocks of the celibacy book are still being felt.
As the Herald went to press, Pope Francis was expected to publish his exhortation on the Amazon, following last year’s synod on the region. It was unclear whether the exhortation would address priestly celibacy, a subject which was discussed at the Amazon synod. The synod’s final document was ambiguous: it praised celibacy, but also asked for the Church “to
establish criteria and dispositions on the part of the competent authority” for married deacons to be ordained to the priesthood in some or many areas.