Leaked letters – Benedict rebukes critics

Leaked letters from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI have been published in Bild, a German magazine.

In them, Benedict says the “anger” some of his staunchest allies express risks tarnishing his own pontificate.

The New York Times says the letters were addressed to Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, one of the four ‘dubia’ cardinals, who recently criticised Benedict’s resignation in an interview with a German newspaper.

In one letter to Brandmüller in November last year, Benedict wrote: “I can well understand the deep-seated pain that the end of my pontificate caused you and many others.

“But for some — and it seems to me for you as well — the pain has turned to anger, which no longer just affects the abdication but my person and the entirety of my pontificate.

“In this way, the pontificate itself is being devalued and conflated with the sadness about the situation of the church today.”

With regard to Brandmuller’s statements that “the figure of ‘pope emeritus’ does not exist in the entire history of the Church,” and “the fact that a pope comes along and topples a 2,000-year-old tradition bowled over not just us cardinals,” Benedict wrote:

“… You know very well, of course, that popes have abdicated, albeit very rarely. What were they afterward? Pope emeritus? Or what else?”

He referred to the case of Pope Pius XII, who had prepared a resignation in case he was captured by the Nazis, and went on to say:

“In my case it would certainly not have been sensible to simply claim a return to being cardinal. I would then have been constantly as exposed to the media as a cardinal is — even more so because people would have seen in me the former pope.

“Whether on purpose or not, this could have had difficult consequences, especially in the context of the current situation.”

Benedict said he chose the title ‘pope emeritus’ to make it clear that he no longer holds the Petrine office.

“With ‘pope emeritus,’ I tried to create a situation in which I am absolutely not accessible to the media and in which it is completely clear that there is only one pope,” he wrote.

“If you know of a better way, and believe that you can judge the one I chose, please tell me.”

In another letter, Benedict said a “new agitation is gradually being generated” which could inspire more books like Fabrizio Grasso’s ‘The Abdication,’ which envisions a situation where multiple popes emeritus could dilute papal authority.


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