Pope Francis asks his predecessor ‘to mark homework’

The man who serves two popes has revealed retired Pope ­Benedict XVI wrote four pages of critique and commentary on Pope Francis’s landmark interview in which he blasted the church’s “small-mindedness”.

Pope Francis. Picture: Reuters
Pope Francis. Picture: Reuters

Monsignor Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s personal secretary and head of Francis’ papal household, told German broadcaster ZDF Francis had solicited Benedict’s input on the interview, published in September in 16 Jesuit journals, and which helped define Francis’ agenda.

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The Jesuit priest who conducted the interview, the Rev Antonio Spadaro, said he gave the first printed copy of the interview to Francis on the day it was published. Francis gave that version to Benedict to critique.

The revelation was further evidence of the unprecedented collaboration between the two popes, who stay in touch by phone, in person and by sending notes back and forth across the Vatican gardens via Gänswein. Pope Benedict, the former German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, stood down amid the paedophile priest scandal, reportedly because of ill-health.

Gänswein said Francis had given him a first copy of the interview to forward to Benedict, and received a four-page letter three days later. “He did his homework – he read it and, in accordance with his successor’s request, he did indeed offer some thoughts and some remarks” he recalled. “Of course I won’t say what.”