The Pope always wears white

“The Pope always wears white. Even when watching TV «

SZ-Magazin: Mr. Prelate, how is the Pope?
Georg Gänswein:
He is fine, he feels good, works a lot and sets a fast pace.

Does he use the exercise bike that his personal doctor Buzzonetti has prescribed for him?
The exercise bike is in our Appartamento Privato.

What does that mean?
It is ready to be used.

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As a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger wanted to resign because he was exhausted.
When he was elected Pope, something happened that he neither aspired to nor wanted. But I am convinced that when he gradually inserted himself into the will of God, the grace of office in person and work left and leaves visible traces.

How did he react to the voting decision?
I joined them at the moment when the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, one after the other, kneeled before the Pope and promised him loyalty and obedience. His face was almost as white as the new white cassock and the pileolus on his head. He looked very battered.

What was going through your head during this hour?
It was like a hurricane, a clear brainstorming utterly impossible. The days afterwards it was also more like a tsunami.

And when did you know that your life was going to change fundamentally?
It was like this: when it was my turn to pay homage to the cardinals, I said: “Holy Father, I promise you my obedience, my loyalty, my commitment in everything you ask of me. I am at your disposal with all my might without restriction. "

The answer?
He looked at me, nodded his head, and thanked me.

Has your salary changed?
I don't earn more or less than before. The only difference is that the address on the pay slip has changed.

The son of the blacksmith from a village of 450 people in the Black Forest, who is now traveling in a helicopter next to the Holy Father and shares the concerns of a universal church - one wonders: Why me? What does God want from me?
This is exactly the question I asked myself - and not just once. It is a task that cannot be planned. By pledging loyalty and obedience to the Holy Father, I tried to answer the question. I personally see this as a sign from God to face this task without reservation.

You are probably the first papal secretary in the history of the church who, in addition to the pontiff, is also in the public eye: people magazines rave about the "sunny boy in the cassock". According to the Swiss World Week, you are "undoubtedly the most beautiful man in a gown who has ever been seen in the Vatican". Donatella Versace has even dedicated her own fashion line to you. Are you bothered by your image as a heartthrob?
Not that I blushed, it rather irritated me. It doesn't hurt and it flattered me at first, and it's not a sin. I have never been confronted with my bowl so head-on and directly before. Then I realized that this was largely an expression of sympathy: a bonus, not a penalty; I can handle that well. However, I would also like that you do not stop at my appearance, but also take note of the substance under the shell.

Are you getting love letters?
Yes, there is also every now and then.

You once spoke of "clerical envy."
I said this in connection with statements that people talk badly about me: “He wants to gain power; he wants to put himself in the foreground ”and the like. There was, there is stupid, negative talk, and sometimes people are simply lying. But I don't care anymore.

Also from the Vatican?
The Vatican is also a court. And there is court chatter there. But there are also arrows that are shot deliberately and deliberately. I had to learn to deal with it first.

They are supposed to be available for the vacant bishopric of Munich.
These are unlaid eggs. Fictitious, pulled by the hair.

Nobody thought it possible that after a "millennial pope" like Karol Wojtyla a successor could succeed so quickly. Everything is different now. Not only that Benedict XVI. attracts twice as many visitors. That his writings were sold in the millions. Pope Ratzinger is now considered to be one of the most important contemporary thinkers. And in contrast to its predecessor, it has hardly been criticized so far. What does he have that others don't?
With being a Pope, of course, there is greater accessibility, greater effectiveness and also greater impact. A connoisseur of the Roman scene once said during the Pope's trip to Bavaria last autumn: »John Paul II opened people's hearts, Benedict XVI. fills them. ”There is much truth to this. The Pope reaches people's hearts, he speaks to them, but he does not speak of himself, he speaks of Jesus Christ, of God, and that vividly, comprehensibly, convincingly. This is what people are looking for. Benedict XVI gives spiritual nourishment.

Did John Paul II want Cardinal Ratzinger to succeed him?
Much has been speculated about this. I dont know.

After all, despite Ratzinger's repeated requests for resignation, he did not dismiss him from office as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Do you see that as an argumentum e silentio, as a conclusion from silence? Might be. Pope John Paul II often said to close colleagues: I want to keep Cardinal Ratzinger, I need him as the theological head. One could deduce a lot from this.

It has become quieter in the Palazzo Apostolico. Benedict XVI. has significantly reduced the number of audiences and rarely guests at table. Of all people, less work is done under a German?
The work is not less, but more concentrated. The Pope is a firm and quick worker. But for this he needs time: to read, to study, to prayer, to think, to write. This is only possible by tightening up a lot, changing some or even deleting it, for the sake of what is more important.

Does that mean that its predecessor was conceptually a little overwhelmed?
Not at all. With John Paul II everything has risen to the superlative compared to earlier pontificates. Just think of the number of audiences, trips, documents, liturgical celebrations, or even the early morning holy masses in the papal private chapel, to which people were always invited. That costs a lot of time every day that has to be saved. For Benedict XVI. such a rhythm would be unthinkable. And finally, John Paul II did not become Pope at the age of 78, but at 58.

At the end of the Wojtyla era, quite a bit was left behind.
It is an open secret that Pope John Paul II did not care very much about the Roman Curia. This is not a criticism, just a fact. The current Pope has worked in the most important positions in the Curia for the past 23 years. He knows her like no other. For him this is a unique experience and a huge advantage.

A Pope can have problems with the Curia?
A look at history says: Yes, that can happen. Indiscretion is certainly a weak point. Unfortunately, there are always porous positions with regard to appointments, the preparation of documents, disciplinary measures, etc. It's not just annoying. This also carries the risk that outside influence can consciously be exerted, which can lead to irritation. Another point: wherever, as in the Roman Curia, an international occupation is at work, there are different mentalities, working styles, ideas, tempos and personal characters that come together. Sometimes that can also lead to sparks.

Is the Pope master of the trials at all?
Do you have any doubts? The Pope regularly receives his most important collaborators in the audiences. Day after day. Week after week. In addition, the heads of the authorities have an audience at regular intervals. Institutionally, this not only guarantees the necessary personal contact and the necessary flow of information, but also an exchange that is essential for both sides. The Pope listens, takes advice, ponders, decides.

Joseph Ratzinger is quick at studying files.
Lightning fast, and he has an elephant memory.

Some criticize that the Pope is in a kind of splendid isolation, a golden cage. There is no approach to him.
This is nonsense. Private audiences take place every morning, followed by working meetings with the closest employees in the afternoon. And that on six days a week. In addition, there are many encounters inside and outside the Vatican walls. Golden cage? What! It may also be that there is a criticism of me behind it. That I shield the Pope too much. Completely exaggerated.

He's basically a shy person. At the same time there was always something uncomfortable about him, a stubbornness against the all too common, against stupidity.
Everyone can see that the Holy Father is not a reckless person, but a reserved one.

The Pope himself wrote all of his important texts, including the Regensburg speech with the controversial quote from a historical book about a dispute with the Muslims. Why has nobody proofread the text?
I consider the Regensburg speech, as it was delivered, to be prophetic.

Was there a great shock when the angry attacks from the Islamic world became known?
We heard that there were some rough reactions for the first time after returning from Bavaria at the airport in Rome. It was a great surprise, also on the part of the Pope. The mighty vortex was initially caused by newspaper reports that took a certain quote out of context and presented it as the Pope's personal opinion.

In real Islam, i.e. wherever this religion rules state and society, human rights are trampled underfoot. The persecution of Christians has increased dramatically. And the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran has just declared again that the countdown to the destruction of Israel has begun. Isn't the idea of ​​a real dialogue with Islam all too naive?
The attempts at Islamization in the West cannot be talked away. And the associated danger to Europe's identity must not be ignored out of misunderstood consideration. The Catholic side sees this very clearly and also says it. The Regensburg speech in particular was intended to counteract a certain naivety. It should be noted that Islam does not exist, and it does not have a voice that is binding on all Muslims. The term brings together many different currents, some of which are hostile to one another, right up to extremists who refer to the Koran for their actions and go to work with a rifle. At the institutional level, the Holy See tries to establish contacts and hold discussions through the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The papal family in the Palazzo Apostolico is the most famous and most influential flat share in the world: four women who belong to the "Memores", the community Comunione e Liberazione, two secretaries, the Pope. They pray together, eat together and watch TV together in the living room in the evenings. How is Benedict XVI. as a roommate?
The papal family is indeed a happy international community: two Germans, one Pole and four Italians who hardly knew each other before. The first important step was to find a modus vivendi. The right word, the right giving, the right taking, silence, non-silence. After a short time, a very warm, family atmosphere has developed. Flat share language is Italian. After all, the Pope is Bishop of Rome. Small correction regarding watching TV together: It's pure fantasy; the Holy Father and the two secretaries at most watch the news together in the evenings. The course of the day is of course shaped by the Pope's rhythm of audience and work; but we try to incorporate small personal »highlights« here and there.

Highlights might sound a bit over the top. I simply mean that personal events, name days, and other important personal memorial days are celebrated accordingly.

When you watch TV in the evening, does the Pope wear private clothes?
No. The Pope is in white - always.

Does a Pope have to wear Prada shoes?
Got to? Not at all! Journalists have vivid imaginations.

Is he doing it?
I owe you the answer.

Like the Pope, you come from a humble background and you both grew up in the village. What is there in the cradle?
Certainly a good portion of healthy, fresh naturalness, which is an incorruptible filter against the unhealthy, regardless of the mask in which it occurs. An instinct that helps to distinguish real from fake.

They were five children at home, the father a blacksmith, the mother a housewife.
My father ran a blacksmith's business in the seventh generation, and later an agricultural machinery business was added, which, however, did not necessarily bring the big money. We had a small farm until I was six years old. Sometimes we had to stretch ourselves a lot. In addition, my father was active in local politics, as well as in many clubs. That's why he was rarely home in the evenings. Our mother then had to bear the duty and burden of bringing up the children all the more. We five children had a carefree childhood. But of course we also argued.

Because not everything went according to the head of the firstborn?
As the elder, I should always be the smarter - "the smarter gives in" - but indulgence isn't necessarily my forte.

Born to be wild - was that your thing?
Occasionally, perhaps, between 15 and 18 years. I heard Cat Stevens, Pink Floyd, and a few other celebrities from the period, including the Beatles. I had quite a long lock of curls back then. My father did not like that; so there was trouble about the hairdresser appointment and the length of the hair. Afterwards it turned out to be quite unspectacular.

Where did you stand politically?
Politically, I was never particularly exposed. In addition to school, my interests were more in sports, soccer and skiing.

Which also earned you the money to study.
No, not as a ski instructor, as such I only worked for the ski school of my home ski club. I worked and earned money as a postman. First by bike in a small Black Forest village, later by car overland.

Original sound from Georg Gänswein: "I have healthy senses, and those who have healthy senses also use them." Sounds like a lot of experience with girls.
I have two sisters, several cousins, who helped me not to have problems with the female sex. I grew up completely normal, completely relaxed.

Did you have a steady relationship?
Not that one. There were smaller, enthusiastic childhood friendships.

At first you wanted to become a stockbroker.
Originally, as the oldest, I was supposed to take over my father's agricultural machinery business. At some point, however, I was much more interested in the gears of the stock market. My idea was that a lot of money is made there and you have to be quick and quick. Later, a little more mature, the moment came when I thought about it more intensively: Well, if I can do all of this and have money, what comes next? And then what? And what after? Suddenly existential questions came to the fore. So I began to search and in this way quite unintentionally came across philosophy and theology.

Lengthy process.
And a tedious one. First of all, the theological world as a whole attracted me powerfully, and then the priesthood came in a second step. Of course, celibacy was also an issue. At some point I felt that you cannot drive at half the gas, either you do it completely or you leave it. A little theology, that's not possible. So, one step at a time, I approached the priesthood.

A quote from one of your sermons on the occasion of a priestly ordination: "You can know that you have a dignity that distinguishes you from everyone who is not a priest ... You can be aware that you are doing something great, that you are allowed to do something." formulated.
I would say these sentences again without ifs and buts.

You take it seriously.
Yes I do.

Sounds a bit romantic too.
I do not find. They are words that have been redeemed through life, and life was not romantic there. The sentences you quoted from the sermon might look a little solemn on paper, but there is a good portion of personal experience behind them, and I didn't want to hide from the new priest that he has something big ahead of him, that it costs something and he does it have to cost something.

You were ordained a priest in 1984 and then spent two years as a chaplain in the Black Forest.In 1993 in Munich you wrote your dissertation on "Church membership according to the Second Vatican Council". Did you have moments of great doubt?
After two years as a chaplain, I was sent to Munich to continue my studies; in a subject that was not necessarily from the cradle: canon law. After half a year I was so fed up that I said to myself: Now I'm going to the archbishop and ask him to bring me back to the diocese because I can't stand it.

So bad?
I had always liked to study easily, but I found the study of canon law as dry as work in a dusty quarry where there is no beer. You die of drought. Salvation came from my doctoral supervisor, the canon lawyer Professor Winfried Aymans, who later made me his assistant. He helped me a lot to get out of this darned dilemma by giving me new perspectives. That really helped me a lot not to throw the spoon down. I am very grateful to him.

These judgments keep cropping up: dutiful, pious, conservative; a man of form and rigor.
In the sense of "mild in form, strict in content" I can accept that. When I think something is right, I hold on to it. Granted, patience is not my strong point. Sometimes I pull up pretty close, that can be irritating.

What must the private secretary of the head of a church with 1.1 billion members be able to do?
In a certain sense he should be a generalist, but at the same time he should understand that he cannot do everything; and he shouldn't ask himself to do that either. He must do what the Pope tells him to do, with all his might, heart and mind.

Was there an initial briefing, such as a school for papal etiquette?
Not at all. The only thing that was possible was a one-on-one conversation with my predecessor, Monsignor Stanislaus Dziwisz, the current Cardinal-Archbishop of Krakow. That was about two weeks after the papal election and moving into the apartment. As he did so, he gave me an envelope containing some papers and a key for a safe. An ancient safe, German branding. All he said was, “You now have a very important, very beautiful, but very, very difficult task. The only thing I can tell you is that the Pope must not be crushed by anything or anyone. You have to find out for yourself how to do that. ”Period, that's it. He didn't say more. That was all about Papal Etiquette School.

And what was in the envelope?
I won't tell you that. They are things that are passed on from papal secretary to papal secretary.

Your initial mistake?
I soon realized that the pace I was asking was too fast. Starting in pole position is one thing, getting through the lap and then getting to the finish line well, the other. Start at full throttle, so to speak! Now it was time to find the right pace. Another sensitive point was how to deal with the innumerable requests for private audiences and other encounters, all of which had noble motives. Inquiries without end - "only a minute", "only one exception", "the Pope has known me for a long time, he would be very happy" - and almost always written with top spice. The right filter system was required here. I had to put in a stronger filter.

What are you withholding the Pope?
Nothing of importance. All important official correspondence and documents, everything that comes from bishops and cardinals, from the world of politics and diplomacy, I submit to the Holy Father at the daily meetings. In addition, there are of course a huge number of letters, requests, inquiries, suggestions that he does not get to see because he simply does not have the time. The Pope has given me a margin of discretion.

Are you trying to instrumentalize you?
It does happen. But I know how to defend myself.

Do you ever take off in your position?
Rather the opposite is the case, namely that one is being crushed. If there is danger, it is called "isolation". At some point friends said that I would make myself too rare and elude them. That was an alarm signal! And I immediately tried to free up time to better maintain personal relationships and existing friendships. This is important for mental hygiene.

What can this pontificate do?
Strengthening and encouraging faith - and the awareness that the Catholic faith is something great, a gift from God that is not imposed, but wants to be accepted voluntarily. There are current challenges that the church has to face.

For example?
The question of God, the examination of the various forms of relativism, the dialogue with Islam, the strengthening of one's own identity. The fact that a continent like Europe cannot live if you cut off its Christian roots, because that takes away its soul.

The announcement of "full and visible unity" with the Orthodox Churches was the first sensation of the Ratzinger government. Isn't that a pretty illusory idea?
It's not a sensation, it has always been a declared goal. It goes without saying that a Pope, who has had a strong theological influence in this area over the last few years and decades, expressly formulates this intention. Let us not forget that the Orthodox Churches are in apostolic succession and thus have a valid ministry and the Eucharist, as well as the seven sacraments. The question of the primacy and jurisdiction of the Pope needs clarification. But it is a scandal that Christianity is still divided. The restoration of full unity in faith is certainly a great aim of the Pope theologian.

Will Pope Benedict rebuild the papacy in favor of unity?
The question is wrongly asked. Ecumenism cannot be done at the expense of truth. A Pope cannot simply rebuild the papacy to achieve certain goals more quickly. It is about the papacy helping to meet the truth's claim to unity.

A turn in the Catholic Church's relations with Moscow, Constantinople and, in particular, Beijing would dramatically change the religious and political world map.
Ecumenical dialogue with the various Orthodox churches is in full swing and considerable progress has been made. But doing ecumenism is and remains an arduous struggle. This is also related to existing tensions within the Orthodox Churches. Constantinople and Moscow mark two sensitive points. Everyone was able to be present via the media when the Pope met the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul last November. A meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow is still pending.

Do you already see the Pope with the Russian Patriarch in Moscow?
I hope that there will be an encounter wherever.

In the west, the Roman Church is undergoing tremendous upheaval. The Viennese Cardinal Christoph Schönborn already speaks of a "decision-making church" as an alternative to the previous national church, a church to which the believers really profess. Is the time of pseudo-Christianity coming to an end?
Pseudo-Christianity sounds unjust and pejorative and does not do justice to reality. It can be seen that elements of the popular church are melting away and that more and more "core congregations" are developing; this process has been going on for years. Cardinal Schönborn brings this to the concept of the "decision-making church". Whoever is a Christian today wants to be one, he makes a decision, is decided, perhaps more decided than in earlier years. And if you don't want to be, you simply don't do it without incurring any personal, social, political or whatever disadvantages.

A remarkable number of priests of the new generation are discovering the spiritual, cultural and aesthetic treasures of the traditional liturgy. With the new motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum", an apostolic letter from the Pope, it is stated that every priest can also celebrate Holy Mass in the earlier, Tridentine rite. Does that mean a new quarrel?
The opposite is intent and goal. Disputes should be settled, existing divisions and divisions overcome. With the motu proprio, a spiritual and spiritual home is opened to not a few believers. I am convinced that the Holy Father's letter to the bishops, published at the same time as the motu proprio, in which the Pope explains in detail the motives of the document, offers the key to proper understanding.

The French philosopher René Girard, a member of the Académie française, predicts a decisive Christian renaissance. We are already "on the eve of a revolution in our culture." This upheaval will even make the 15th century renaissance fade.
The religious is currently enjoying more attention than in previous years. After a phase of indifferentism, people are now again dealing with religion, with questions of faith. I see that many young people in particular, who actually have or could have everything, notice: You can actually do anything, you can even destroy the world - but you cannot win the soul if the essentials are missing. The Catholic Church has treasures to offer that no one else has to offer; Greater and more permanent than all political offers of salvation. However, this does not work automatically. Faith comes from hearing, as St. Paul says, it must be proclaimed.

Just six weeks after it was published, the Pope's book on Jesus had a circulation of 1.5 million copies. One has the feeling that the Pope is literally putting on this Jesus again.
The Jesus book is the quintessence of a man who, as a priest, theologian, bishop, cardinal and now as Pope, has dealt all his life with the figure of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a great spiritual legacy.

What do you particularly appreciate about the work?
I am about to read it one more time. It is written as deeply as it is understandable. It is the sum of the life of a great personality. The work is part of the tradition of the great church fathers. I am convinced that this book strengthens and leads many people in the faith, and not just a certain intellectual class, but people of all origins and backgrounds.

The theologian Joseph Ratzinger provides a compelling logic: This Jesus is the one who has all powers, the Lord of the universe, God himself, who became man. Jesus of Nazareth should actually trigger a revolution.
Yes, but without bloodshed.

Dr. Georg Gänswein, a person with a polished intellect, was born on July 30, 1956 in Riedern in the Black Forest, the oldest of five children of a blacksmith. Jobs as a ski instructor and postman; Theology student, priest, chaplain, doctorate in Munich, cathedral vicar in Freiburg. In 1995 he was called to the Congregation in Rome, one year later changed to the Faith Congregation under the direction of Joseph Ratzinger. In 2005, after his election as Pope, Gänswein became his private secretary. He is responsible for organizing the Pope's working life in such a way that he does not get lost in the flood of letters, appointments and audiences.