On Monday, Pope Francis had a private meeting with Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the closest adviser to the late Pope Benedict XVI. Ganswein’s book, in which he claims to have described the tensions that existed within the Vatican’s ancient walls while two men wearing white, alarmed the Vatican.
Ganswein was noted in the pope’s schedule of audiences in the Vatican’s daily bulletin, but as is traditional, no further information was provided.
A few news organizations, including Reuters, received advance copies of Ganswein’s 330-page book “Nothing But The Truth – My Life Beside Benedict XVI” from an Italian publishing firm hours after Benedict was buried on Thursday.
From 2003, when Benedict was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Ganswein, 66, served as his personal secretary. He stayed by his side for over 20 years until his passing on December 31. He served as Francis’ gatekeeper up until they had a disagreement.
Francis’ major concern right now is deciding what role to give Ganswein. Many are interested in learning whether he will be given another position in the Vatican or be sent somewhere else in the world.
The choice is significant because, with Benedict’s passing, conservatives may look to Ganswein to step into Benedict’s shoes and serve as a rallying point for those who are resentful of Francis’ reforms, which include cracking down on the traditional Latin Mass.
In the book, which will be available in bookstores on January 12, Ganswein provides an insider’s account of Benedict’s 2005 election, his choice to resign as pope in 2013, his post-papacy years, his illness, and his dying moments.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni has had no comment on the book, written with Italian journalist Saverio Gaeta and published by Piemme, an imprint of Mondadori.
The Vatican never says what is discussed in private audiences unless they are with a head of state. Ganswein could not immediately be reached for comment.
Since stories about the themes in the book have been published, criticism has come on social media and in Italian newspapers, including from a cardinal and at least two priests, about its allegations and the timing of its release.
The book details various contentious circumstances, despite Francis frequently comparing Benedict’s residence in the Vatican like having a grandfather in the family.
Ganswein maintained his two roles for the first seven years after Francis was elected pope. One was the ex-private pope’s secretary and the Prefect of the Pontifical Household, a gatekeeper overseeing Francis’s public events.
According to Ganswein, the new pope and him were never able to establish “a climate of trust,” and Francis likely allowed Ganswein to hold the position of prefect for such a long time out of respect for Benedict.
In 2020, when Ganswein was embroiled in a complex incident involving a book on clerical celibacy, the two fell out.