VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Former Pope Benedict wants his name removed as co-author of a new book on the subject of priestly celibacy, said his personal secretary on Tuesday, in the last turn of a saga that has kept the Catholic world captivated .
FILE PHOTO: Pope Benedict XVI ends his last general audience at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican on February 27, 2013. REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi / File Photo
Archbishop Georg Ganswein told Reuters that, at the request of the former pope, he had asked the book’s main author, Cardinal Robert Sarah, to contact the publishers to make the necessary changes.
The book, “From the depths of our hearts,” will be published in France on Wednesday. Excerpts were published over the weekend, angering some Roman Catholic scholars, who said Benedict was at risk of undermining his successor, Pope Francis.
The American publisher of the book, Ignatius Press, said in a statement that it still “considers it a co-authored publication,” indicating that it may not comply with the ex-Pope’s requests when the English version is released next month.
The episode underlined the polarization between conservatives and progressives in the Church of 1.3 billion members and sparked a new debate about the role of a former pontiff.
Hours earlier, Cardinal Sarah rejected media accusations that he had used Benedict’s name without authorization and that he had taken advantage of the fragile and former 92-year-old pontiff, who in 2013 became the first pope to resign in 700 years .
“I solemnly affirm that Benedict XVI knew that our project would take the form of a book. I can say that we exchange several texts to establish the corrections, ”wrote Sarah, 74, on Twitter.
He later said that due to the controversies, in future editions of the book, Benedict would be named collaborator and not co-author. “However, the full text remains unchanged,” he said.
In the book, Benedict and Sarah defend priestly celibacy in what some have seen as a strategic call to Francisco not to change the rules after a proposal to allow older married men to order themselves in a limited way to deal with the shortage of priests. In the Amazon Francis is preparing a document on the subject.
Sarah also issued a long statement in her own defense, detailing her recent meetings with Benedict and reaffirming that the former pope was informed of everything, including the cover of the book.
He said the accusations that he was manipulating Benedict were “despicable” and that his loyalty to Francisco was “total.” He also published a signed letter from Benedict, in which the former Pope wrote in Italian: “For my part, the text can be published in the way you have planned.”
The episode has sparked heated debate, even on social networks away from the Vatican, about the role Benedict should have, if any, and if it is being used by others.
“Has the Pope emeritus become a brand that some manipulate and manage at will?” Said Luis Badilla, head of the Catholic website Il Sismografo, in an editorial.
“Can you leave the state of Pope Emeritus in the hands of private people who do not have to answer anyone?” Badilla said in apparent reference to those with access to Benedict, who lives in a former monastery in the Vatican.
It is not the first time that Benedict speaks about Church affairs despite his public vote to live “hidden from the world” after his abdication in 2013.
Benedict caused a stir last year with an essay in which he blamed the Church’s sexual abuse scandal for the effects of the sexual revolution in the 1960s.
Many Catholic theologians and abuse experts rebuked him, saying he was trying to take the Church’s blame.
Reports by Philip Pullella; Gareth Jones and David Goodman edition