ROME: Retired Pope Benedict XVI moved to distance himself from the suggestions he had tried to influence his successor, Pope Francis, on whether to allow married men to be ordained as priests, suggestions that have ignited the debate within the Catholic Church on the role of the former Pope in the Vatican.
Pope Benedict requested Tuesday that he no longer be credited as co-author of a book to which he contributed defending the principle of celibacy. Pope Francis is considering relaxing the millennial role in remote areas to encourage more men to be priests. The news of the book, which the editor said on Monday that was co-written by Pope Benedict and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, intensified the debate about the historically unique situation of having two living popes in the Vatican, especially because many conservative Catholics see the Pope Benedict as a defender of tradition against the progressive agenda of Pope Francis.
Pope Benedict retired in 2013, citing his age and diminished strength, and under the reign of his successor he has led a largely isolated existence in an old convent within the Vatican grounds.
However, he occasionally intervened in sensitive issues such as traditional liturgy, interfaith dialogue and clerical sexual abuse, which sometimes reflects the alarm among conservative Catholics about the direction of the current pontificate.
Celibacy has become one of several polarizing problems in the church. Pope Francis will decide earlier this year if he allows the ordination of married men as priests in the Amazon region of South America to alleviate the shortage of clergy there.
He has said that celibacy is a “gift for the church,” but that it is open to exceptions in sparsely populated regions. If you relax the rule, it would mark the first time that the Roman Catholic Church routinely allowed the ordination of married priests in almost a thousand years.
Amid growing controversy over the book, Pope Benedict’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, called Cardinal Sarah on Tuesday morning to ask that the name and photo of the retired Pope be removed from the cover of the book, The archbishop told KNA, the German Catholic news service. Episcopal Conference.
“From the Depth of Our Hearts” should be published on Wednesday in French, and in English and German next month, and Pope Benedict and Cardinal Sarah, an open curator who heads the Vatican liturgy office, would be co-authors. One of the four chapters of the book will continue to be credited to Pope Benedict.
Cardinal Sarah wrote on Twitter that Tuesday’s ex-Pope’s request came in response to the “controversies caused by the publication of the work.” He said he was in contact with the editor about the implementation of the changes requested by Pope Benedict.
Several commentators on social networks had already accused Cardinal Sarah of exaggerating the role of the retired Pope in the writing of the book. Cardinal Sarah issued several statements defending himself on Monday and Tuesday, including a detailed account of his collaboration with Pope Benedict, who said he had approved the co-authorship.
Archbishop Gänswein told KNA that a chapter of the book is “100% Benedict.” In that chapter, the ex-pope writes that even married priests in the early church should always be sexually abstinent as a sign of their marriage to the church.
But Pope Benedict asked that his name be removed from the cover, introduction and conclusion, which would be attributed to him along with the cardinal, said Archbishop Gänswein. The retired Pope had never signed a contract with the book’s editor, the archbishop said, adding: “It was a misunderstanding, without doubting the good intentions of Cardinal Sarah.”
The incident is a great shame for Cardinal Sarah, a vocal conservative who was previously rebuked by Pope Francis for defending traditional worship styles. Many Vatican observers see him as a potential candidate to become the next pope.
Write to Francis X. Rocca at [email protected]
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