Pope Benedict’s Secretary Reflects on Awful 2020 with German Magazine 

Archbishop Georg Gänswein | Photo: Daniel Ibañez - EWTN

Archbishop Georg Gänswein has spoken about life with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and a personally challenging year. "I'm grateful to God that 2020 is finally over," the 64-year-old told the German tabloid magazine “Bunte”, saying Rome had at times turned “eerily quiet” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gänswein, who hails from the Black Forest region of Germany, is prefect of the Papal Household, but has been on leave from his duties as prefect since February in order to be able to dedicate his time exclusively to the former pope as Benedict XVI's private secretary. 

Since the election of Pope Francis in 2013, Gänswein had worked in both roles, commuting between two offices – until the stress took its toll. The archbishop suffered from acute hearing loss in 2017 and is now living with a severe case of tinnitus. In late January of last year, Pope Francis informed Gänswein he should devote his time and energy entirely to his role as secretary to Benedict. “For this purpose, he released me from my service in the prefecture. My duties there have been reassigned for an indefinite period”, Gänswein said.

Following a treatment for kidney problems in September, Gänswein said, he had a “clarifying, very fortifying and encouraging meeting with Pope Francis” about the decision to be removed from active duty as Prefect, which he stressed he knew was not any kind of “punishment” in the first instance.

Gänswein celebrated Christmas and New Year’s with Pope emeritus Benedict in the monastery building Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican Gardens, where the men and four Italian nuns reside.

"I pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily with Pope emeritus Benedict and also the Rosary. A considerable amount of my time is reserved for prayer. Every priest, every bishop, even the Pope, prays not only for himself but for the people entrusted to them. Also and especially for those who do not want to or cannot pray", Gänswein told the magazine.

He also said Benedict XVI remained very alert mentally. “Physically, however, he has become quite weak,” he said. “At 93, he is at a blessed age.”

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