VATICAN CITY (AP) — The longtime personal secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. has written a tell-all book its publisher promised on Monday would tell the truth about the “blatant slanders,” “dark maneuvers,” mysteries and scandals that tarnished the reputation of a pope best known for his historic resignation is known.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s Nothing but the Truth: My Life Beside Pope Benedict XVI will be published this month in the Piemme imprint by Italian publishing giant Mondadori, according to a press release.
Benedict died on Saturday at the age of 95 and his body was on display in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday ahead of a funeral on Thursday to be celebrated by his successor, Pope Francis.
Gänswein, a 66-year-old German priest, stood by Benedict for almost three decades, first as an officer of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then from 2003 as Ratzinger’s personal secretary.
Gänswein followed his boss as secretary to the Apostolic Palace when Ratzinger was elected Pope in 2005. And in one of the most memorable images of Benedict’s last day as pope on February 28, 2013, Gänswein wept as he escorted Benedict through the frescoed halls of the Vatican church to say goodbye.
He remained Benedict’s porter, confidant, and protector through a decades-long retirement, while also serving until recently as prefect of Francis’ papal household. It was Gänswein who performed the Anointing of the Sick last Wednesday when Benedict’s health was deteriorating, and it was he who called Pope Francis on Saturday to tell him that Benedict had died.
According to Piemme, Gaenswein’s book contains “a personal testimony to the greatness of a gentle man, a fine scholar, a cardinal, and a pope who wrote the history of our time.” But it said the book also contained a first-hand account that would correct some “misunderstood” aspects of the pontificate and the machinations of the Vatican.
“Today, after the death of the Pope Emeritus, the time has come for the current Prefect of the Papal Household to speak his own truth about the brazen slanders and dark maneuvers that have tried in vain to cast shadows on the Magisterium and the deeds of the German Pope to throw,” the press release said.
Gänswein’s portrayal would “finally reveal the true face of one of the greatest protagonists of recent decades, all too often wrongly denigrated by critics as ‘Panzerkardinal’ or ‘God’s Rottweiler’,” it said, alluding to some common media nicknames for the well-known German for his conservative, doctrinaire leanings.
In particular, the editor said Gaenswein will address the “Vatileaks” scandal, in which Benedikt’s own butler leaked his personal correspondence to a journalist, as well as scandals surrounding clergyman sexual abuse and one of the Vatican’s enduring mysteries, the disappearance of the 15-year-old 1983-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee, Emanuela Orlandi.
The book appears to be just part of what is shaping up as Gaenswein’s postmortem media blitz, including the release of excerpts of a lengthy interview he gave to Italian state television RAI last month, set to air Thursday after the funeral.
According to excerpts published by La Repubblica newspaper, Gaenswein recounted how he tried to persuade Benedict to resign after the then-Pope informed him in late September 2012 that he had made up his mind. That was six months after Benedict fell one night while visiting Mexico and found he was no longer up to the rigors of the job.
“He told me, ‘You can imagine that I’ve thought, pondered, prayed and fought long and hard about this. And now I’m telling you that a decision has been made that is not up for discussion,'” Gänswein recalled Benedikt’s words.
Gaenswein also referred to the struggles, scandals and problems Benedict faced during his eight-year pontificate, recalling that at the beginning he asked for prayers to protect him from the “wolves” who were out to get him . Gaenswein specifically cited the “Vatileaks” treason that led to the butler being convicted by the Vatican tribunal, only to be pardoned by the pope two months before he resigned.
“Anyone who thinks there can be a quiet papacy has the wrong profession,” he said.