Benedict XVI’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, has denied he received pressure from Pope Francis to scratch the Emeritus’ name from the celibacy book written by Cardinal Robert Sarah.

Driving the news

In comments reported January 17 by Die Tagespost, Gänswein rejected categorically that Francis had called him to discuss the controversial Sarah book, and also emphatically denied that Francis had spoken to him about the volume in the course of their meetings this week.

As personal secretary to Benedict XVI, but also Prefect of Francis’ Pontifical Household, Gänswein is a key mediator between the current and former popes.

Gänswein also insisted that the book was Sarah’s, not Benedict’s, and that the Pope Emeritus never saw beforehand the book cover or the supposed joint introduction and conclusion to the same.

Instead, the Pope Emeritus simply limited himself – in the correspondence Sarah shared on social media, without Benedict’s permission – to following up on his own modest contribution to the volume.

That contribution of Benedict’s was begun months before Sarah approached the Pope Emeritus about writing a book together, but was then appropriated by the cardinal to lend weight to his arguments against optional priestly celibacy.

Go deeper

Gänswein’s declarations Friday completely destroy the latest ultraconservative conspiracy theory regarding Sarah’s anti-optional celibacy book.

First aired by anti-Francis journalist Antonio Socci, that conspiracy theory claimed – citing “reliable sources within the Vatican” – that “all hell broke loose in the Vatican” when the Sarah book became known.

Francis was “furious” and “demanded a full and total retraction” on Benedict’s part, Socci claimed – to which demand Benedict supposedly negotiated the compromise, to protect his personal secretary from “South American vendettas”, of removing his name from the cover but leaving his text in the book intact.

Why it matters

Gänswein claimed to Die Tagespost that “everything” in Socci’s conspiracy theory was “fictitious” and “a lie”.

But only did Gänswein take down Socci, but he also demolished the claims of Sarah’s French publisher Nicolas Diat, of Fayard, who not only did not make a contract with Benedict as would have been proper of a book “co-author”, but also continued to claim this week, against all evidence to the contrary, that the Pope Emeritus was fully aware of the plans for the book.

Gänswein’s later declarations also expose even further the book’s American publishers, Ignatius Press, who are continuing to refuse Benedict and Gänswein’s request that the name and photo of the Pope Emeritus be removed from the cover of the English edition.

In the meantime, the French edition of the book is now in stores, and Cardinal Sarah is continuing to ignore the wishes of Benedict XVI, sharing on social supposed quotes – in quotation marks – from the Pope Emeritus’ alleged contribution to his book.

Next on Novena:

Benedict and Sarah lose out on celibacy: Francis ready to approve married priests

German laypeople accuse Benedict, Sarah of creating “division” in Church with “irresponsible” anti-optional celibacy stance

In midst of Sarah scandal, Pope laments “much harm” done by “incoherent and schizophrenic” pastors

Bombshell: Benedict asks for name, image to be removed from celibacy book Sarah said they co-wrote

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

“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.