A bombshell has landed in the Vatican, with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI requesting his name and image be removed from the controversial pro-celibacy book Cardinal Robert Sarah insisted the two co-wrote.

Driving the news

German and Italian media stated Tuesday morning that Benedict has asked the book’s publishers to remove his name and image from the cover.

While the Pope Emeritus did not deny involvement in writing an essay in the book, he insisted he was not involved in the book’s collaborative introduction and conclusion, as Cardinal Sarah has been sustaining.

Although Benedict said he knew his text would end up in a book, he also maintained he was not consulted on the book’s format and cover.

Go deeper

The source close to the Pope Emeritus quoted in the German and Italian reports is Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s private secretary.

Gänswein was reported as saying that although the Pope Emeritus’ contribution to the book is “100% Benedict”, Ratzinger cannot be named as co-author.

Not only from a moral but also a legal perspective, because no contract between the Pope Emeritus and the volume’s original French publishers, Fayard, exists, Gänswein confirmed.

Gänswein put the controversy and misattribution down to a “misunderstanding” on Sarah’s part, “without questioning [the cardinal’s] good intentions”.

Official Holy See media outlet Vatican News later released the full text of Gänswein’s statement to the German KNA and Italian ANSA agencies:

“I can confirm that this morning, at the indication of the Pope emeritus, I asked Cardinal Robert Sarah to contact the publishers of the book requesting them to remove the name of Benedict XVI as co-author of the book itself, and also to remove his name from the introduction and conclusions

“The Pope emeritus in fact knew the Cardinal was preparing a book”, Archbishop Gänswein added, “and had sent a short text of his on the priesthood”, authorizing the Cardinal to use it as he wished. But the Pope emeritus “had not approved any project for a co- signed book, nor had he seen and authorized the cover. It was a misunderstanding, without questioning the good faith of Cardinal Sarah”.

In a tweet immediately after the news of Gänswein’s denials broke, Cardinal Sarah said that “considering the polemics caused by the publication of the book From the Depths of Our Hearts, it was decided that the book’s author for future publications will be: ‘Cardinal Sarah, with the contribution of Benedict XVI'”.

“However, the full text remains absolutely unchanged”, the cardinal added.

Why it matters

The latest declarations of Gänswein and Sarah come after a breathtaking 24 hours of back-and-forth claims between the cardinal and journalists who, citing anonymous sources close to Pope Benedict, had claimed Sarah had deceived and manipulated the Pope Emeritus.

Late Monday night, reports appeared in Spanish and Italian media citing a source from the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican, where Benedict lives, to the effect that it is “evident” that Sarah’s book and its publicity “is an editorial and mediatic operation from which Benedict XVI separates himself, and to which he is totally extraneous”.

Sarah contested that journalistic claims of manipulation in a tweet last night, saying that “attacks seem to imply a lie on my part. These defamations are of exceptional gravity”.

“I give this evening the first proofs of my close collaboration with Benedict XVI to write this text in favor of celibacy. I will speak tomorrow if necessary”, Sarah added, attaching in a tweet copies of three letters sent to him by Benedict that the cardinal said proved that the Pope Emeritus was duly informed of his plans for the book.

“I solemnly affirm that Benedict XVI knew that our project would take the form of a book. I can say that we exchanged several texts to establish the corrections”, Sarah later tweeted.

For the record

Sarah doubled down again Tuesday with another official statement on Twitter outlining his version of the time of the book’s preparation.

The journey, according to Sarah, began last September 5, when the cardinal proposed to the Pope Emeritus that he write a text on priestly celibacy.

On September 20, Benedict wrote to Sarah that he had been writing “some reflections on the priesthood” but abandoned them due to his declining health, but that the cardinal’s invitation to write a book together had encouraged him to finish the job.

On October 12, during the Amazon Synod, Sarah said Benedict handed him his text.

On November 19, Sarah said he sent Benedict the book manuscript, including the joint introduction, conclusion and cover.

Just six days later, on November 25, a further letter from the Pope Emeritus to the cardinal stated that “from my side, the text can be published in the form you have foreseen”.

Sarah said later, on December 3, he visited Benedict and told him “our book” would be printed over Christmas and released in January.

Updated 14/1 17:49 CET

Sarah tweeted early this afternoon to “confirm that I was able to speak this morning with Bishop Georg Gänswein”.

The cardinal reaffirmed that his Tuesday morning statement “remains my one and only version of the development of the facts”, thus reiterating his claim that Benedict had seen the book’s cover before it went to press and was in agreement with co-signing the introduction and conclusion, despite Gänswein’s denials.

“I also had a conversation with Fayard’s management to put in place the specific requests of Bishop Gänswein” regarding taking Benedict’s name and image off the book, Sarah said.

(Corrected – clarifies that Gänswein released statement simultaneously to KNA and ANSA)

Updated 14/1 18:06 CET

Full text of a statement from the book’s English publishers, Ignatius Press:

In light of recent developments with respect to the Ignatius Press title “FROM THE DEPTHS OF OUR HEARTS,” Mark Brumley, President of Ignatius Press, issues the following statement:

“Ignatius Press published the text as we received it from the French publisher Fayard. Fayard is the publisher with whom we have collaborated on three other Cardinal Sarah titles. The text we received indicates the two authors are Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah. That text also indicates that Benedict XVI co-authored an introduction and a conclusion with Cardinal Sarah, as well as his own chapter on the priesthood, wherein he describes how his exchanges with Cardinal Sarah gave him the strength to complete what would have gone unfinished.

“Given that, according to Benedict XVI’s correspondence and Cardinal Sarah’s statement, the two men collaborated on this book for several months, that none of the essays have appeared elsewhere, and that a joint work as defined by the Chicago Manual of Style is ‘a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contribution be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole,’

“Ignatius Press considers this a coauthored publication.

“Cardinal Sarah indicates the content of the book remains unchanged. That content, as noted, includes a coauthored introduction, a chapter by Benedict XVI, and a conclusion coauthored by Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah”.

Next on Novena:

Sicilian archbishop reminds Benedict, Sarah that Francis is pope: he makes the decisions on celibacy

Vatican: Sarah-Benedict book “a contribution on priestly celibacy in filial obedience to Francis”

“Totally disloyal”: Catholic Twittizens roast Benedict and Cardinal Sarah for new book stifling celibacy debate


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.