VATICAN CITY (June 15) (Reuters) – Pope Francis has ordered Archbishop Georg Geinswein, private secretary and longtime aide to Pope Benedict, to return to his native Germany by the end of the month without any new mission, the Vatican. He said on Thursday.
The Vatican statement put an end to speculation about what role Gaenswein, a powerful figure in the Vatican for more than a decade before Francis sidelined him after a personal dispute, could play in the Church.
Former Pope Benedict died on December 31, nearly a decade after he resigned in 2013, the first pope to do so in 600 years.
Gaenswein is 66, and it is exceptionally unusual for a person of that relatively young age and rank not to have a mission, giving the pope’s decision a sense of banishment.
The two-line statement said Francis had “considered” the 66-year-old Genswein to return to his diocese in Freiburg “for the time being”.
Almost all papal secretaries have in the past been charged with either leading dioceses, making cardinals, or being given other high-ranking offices. Gaenswein is nine years short of the normal retirement age of 75 for bishops.
He had met Francis several times in the past months about his future, and there had been speculation in the Catholic media that he was hoping to secure a diplomatic mission as ambassador or nuncio to a country.
Gaenswein declined to comment when contacted by Reuters on Thursday.
He has been Benedict’s personal secretary since 2003, when Benedict was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and has remained at his side for nearly 20 years, nearly 10 of them after Benedict’s resignation.
In a book called “Nothing But the Truth – My Life Beside Benedict XVI” and sent to reporters by his publisher just hours after Benedict’s burial on Jan. 5, Genswein rocked the Vatican and described what he says were strains while two men clad in white. lived within its walls.
Gensoin and Francis fell out in 2020 when Gensoin was at the center of a messy episode involving former Pope Benedict’s role in a book on priestly celibacy that many saw as an attack on Francis’ authority.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella). Editing by John Stonestreet, Toby Chopra, and Conor Humphries
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