Vatican City: In a recent development, the Vatican has announced that Pope Francis has instructed Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the long-time aide and private secretary of the late Pope Benedict, to return to his native Germany by the end of this month without being assigned any new responsibilities. This decision from Pope Francis puts an end to the speculation regarding Gänswein’s future role within the Church.
Typically, personal secretaries of popes would leave the Vatican following the death of the pontiff they served. However, it is unusual for them to depart without a new assignment. Archbishop Gänswein held a unique position for almost a decade, serving both a retired pope and the current pope, a challenging responsibility he himself acknowledged in 2013.
The strained relationship between Gänswein and Pope Francis became evident in 2020, when Gänswein was embroiled in a controversy surrounding former Pope Benedict’s involvement in a book discussing priestly celibacy. Many perceived the book as an attack on Pope Francis’ authority, leading to a rift between Gänswein and the current pontiff.
Archbishop Gänswein, now 66 years old, initially moved to Rome in 1993, where he served the late Pope Benedict for 25 years. He began his tenure as an official under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Vatican’s doctrinal office. When Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, Gänswein was appointed as his personal secretary.